I have spent the past few weeks working among refugees here in Indonesia. I don't have the words to describe how much my heart has broken for these people. They have left their countries in fear of losing their lives only to find refuge in a country that will not accept them as a citizen. They are here, in a place where they don't speak the language, unable to go to school or to work. Because they are not able to live normal lives, most of the people fall into a depression. They are missing their homes and their families. They feel they have no place here. There are children born here that have no native country, they have no place to call home. Last year, a group of refugees came together and decided to make a change. They decided to start a school where they would teach English, math, general knowledge, art, science and so much more. This school, now known as Hope Learning Center (HLC) has brought so much hope to the refugee community here.
This is Hector (Nasir-Ahmad Rafie). The first time I taught English I was working in Hectors class. He immediately stood out to me because of the light he brought to the people around him. He had an eagerness to learn and when the teacher was speaking he would be listening intently.
Jordan and I were working on a fundraising video for the school and needed a narrator. Hector was laid on my heart and when I asked for his help he was quick to agree. He showed up the next day and sat with Jordan and I as he told his story.
Hector is 15 years old and originally from Afghanistan. When he wasn't hurrying to and from school, Hector would spend his days hiding at home. The Taliban was targeting his father because of his job and because of this his family did not have very much freedom. They were eventually able to save enough money to send the family to the nearest country that would take them. This landed them here in Indonesia.
I naively used to think that once a refugee found safety everything was okay. They are no longer living in fear of their lives but they are free to go outside. While this is a benefit of leaving their country, the reality is much different than what I had thought. The people cannot make money so they are living on what ever they had saved before leaving. They are not treated as equals here and are generally viewed as uneducated people. This stereotype couldn't be more wrong as I have come to know many of the people, including hector.
Hector's mom has come down with an illness, something that many of the refugees here struggle with. They don't know when their country will be safe for them to go back and they don't know how long they will be able to survive here with their limited savings. It becomes this dark depression that lingers over each of their heads. Something Hector said to me the other day struck me, "In our country we are afraid we will die from the war, here we are afraid we will die from depression. I don't know which is worse." It seems to be this circle of sadness. Hector has had to become a man much faster than what he would have hoped due to the struggles his family is facing. Yet, in the midst of all these struggles, he has found a way to see the good. He still stands with a smile on his face and joy in his heart. He has a hope for what is to come.
Upon talking with Hector I learned that he had never been asked his story. "Everyone here has problems. Everyone has pain. I don't want to add to their pain." He hasn't ever really felt that his story matters because there are so many people around him who are struggling too. I told him that while I enjoyed hearing about his family, I wanted to hear about him. How was he doing and how could we help him.
We talked a lot and have continued to talk following our original conversation. I asked what his biggest dream was and he said when he was young he wanted to be an actor but now he wants to write. He wants to tell the stories of people like him. He wants to be the voice of the people who feel they don't matter.
Jordan and I spent the past few days helping create a blog site for Hector. Here he will begin to tell the stories of his friends and family. His biggest desire is for people to understand that refugees are just people. They are people who have been forced to leave their home, people who have not felt welcomed in their new countries, people who cannot have jobs or live normal lives but they are people and They Matter!
If you are interested in knowing more about Hectors story and many others like his, please follow his newly created blog https://nasirahmadrafie.wordpress.com
If you would like to help his family in any way or if you have any questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.