How does it work?

Have you ever wondered how it happened that you: Peter, Lucy, Kate… live in a peaceful country, you aren’t afraid to leave your home, your children are relatively safe at school. Why You? Why Me? What?

Who decided that I was to be born in Poland and Fatima in Afghanistan? Some call it luck, some call it a winning ticket in some “higher” lottery and some call it God’s plan.

This is not about worldview but about the fact that “to whom more has been given from whom more is required” [is that luck or a blessing (whatever you prefer to call it)?] comes with responsibility for those who have  less. What does that look like in practice?

Personally, I believe in God, a God who is good and, despite the terrible things happening in this world, He loves all people and sends His workers to support one another in spreading goodness and His love. Sounds beautiful? The reality is different, but in my opinion, it is still worth it.

I have been in many countries over the past 11 years. I lived and worked for six years in Afghanistan, then worked in a refugee camp on Lesvos and now I research activities and support various NGOs in Asia.

I want to share some stories of mostly Afghan women and families, but also sometimes Iranian and Kurdish families- whoever God puts on my way. I want to tell you about the lives of refugees to build awareness of their situation. We are often afraid of what we don’t know.

The head of a NGO (Nonprofit Organization) here wrote to me and said, “I have a Kurdish family here, could you talk with them? Though we can’t help them, because we only help Afghans.”

Shahi (names changed) – a mother of an 11-year-old daughter and two older sons (17 and 20). She speaks Sorani and Persian (they lived on the border of Iraq and Iran) and the children speak Sorani and already know English well. She opens the door for me in a dress that has already been through a lot, showing signs of mending in many places. Her daughter Ani greets me in English, smiles from ear to ear while trying to take her mother’s phone.  Over tea they tell me their story, how they had had a good life in Iraq. The husband ran a prosperous business. She shows pictures of their nice home. She was very elegant, with nice hair, a beautiful dress, and a smile…-now with gray hair, crying. “Will I ever see my mother again?” One day the political situation changed and the threats to burn down the house and kill the whole family led them to decide to sell everything and flee. They now live in a country that is not friendly to refugees. Everyone except Ani is trying to find work, but it’s illegal here, so it’s not easy. Shahi asks me, “Anna, I can clean, I can cook, I can take care of the children…”. – though I don’t think I can help her find a job, many women here are looking for that kind of work, but I will talk to different NGOs.

Her daughter Ani has had to stop going to school-as a refugee here she has no right to school, no right to anything, nor the money for the refugee school. I encourage her not to take her out of school – I tell her that I will ask around, maybe we can find a sponsor for the school, (which shouldn’t be difficult, for Westerners because it’s not a lot of money.) Then she asks about work again. “We never asked for anything, we want to work” I say I know, but everyone in life sometimes needs support.

I take them to a second-hand clothing store and we buy blouses and trousers for mom, and t-shirts, jeans and skirts for Ani for school. She also has no shoes except crocs, which she walks in all the time and for school she needs some sort of tennis shoe. We go to a store in the mall. Shahi says “those are the shoes Ani has always wanted – pink – it’s her favorite color.” Not a top brand, but Ani’s smile when she tries them on is priceless. We get them for her. Shahi then asks: “why are you helping us?” – I answered, “Because I was also once without a job, because someone gave me money for the electric bill, someone else fed me many times, because God loves you and your family and you are important to Him.” Finally, before leaving, I ask if I can pray for them. Shani says they are Muslims and asks if that would prevent me from praying. I say no and ask if there is anything she wants to pray for. “For a job and that I will see my mother again someday” I hugged her and prayed and she quietly cries.

A wonderful man has been found who is sponsoring Ani’s school. We continue to be in touch, and I pray that some job will be found (the oldest son works, but his salary it’s not even enough to pay the rent) and that Shahi will see her mom again someday.

Sometimes we can’t help much, but we can be together in a difficult time.