13 Powerful Refugee Stories From Around The World
More than 22 million refugees worldwide represent 22 million stories waiting to be told.
In honor of World Refugee Day, we’re sharing the stories of refugees as young as 7 and as old as 75; some have recently fled their homes, while others have been displaced for decades.
GlobalGiving is proud to partner with nonprofits who are working with the courageous people who are sharing their stories below, by providing education and job training, psychosocial support, medical care, and even agriculture assistance.
Alia fled her home in Aleppo, Syria and is currently living in Damour, Lebanon. She shared her story through Gruppo Aleimar, an Italian NGO which provides free, nutritious meals to refugees in the Damour area. Alia is 7 years old.
“The last thing I remember of Syria, before we left, was when my mother was taking me from our place to our grandparents. The roads were full of dead corpses. I saw dead people with no heads or no hands or legs. I was so shocked I couldn’t stop crying. To calm me down, my grandfather told me they were mean people, but I still prayed for them, because even if some considered them mean, they were still dead human beings. Back at home, I left a friend in Syria, her name was Rou’a. I miss her a lot and I miss going to school with her. I used to play with her with my Atari, but I couldn’t bring it with me. I also used to have pigeons, one of them had eggs, I would feed them and care for them. I’m worried about them, I really pray someone is still caring for them. But here I have a small kitten that I really love! I miss my home a lot. I hope one day we’ll be back and things will be just like before.”
He fled his home in Rwanda and is now living in Nairobi, Kenya. Bizimana’s story was shared with us by Refugees International Japan, which focuses on the health, education and economic livelihoods of people displaced by conflict around the world.
Bizimana was two years old when his family had to flee the Rwandan genocide to Burundi. From there he moved to camps in Tanzania and now lives in Nairobi, Kenya. He received business start-up training and has established a business that has grown so fast he is now able to start a cafe service. He is also a prize-winning singer.
Yara fled her home in Syria and is currently living in Tripoli, Lebanon. Yara’s story was shared with us by Concern Worldwide, which works with displaced persons inside Syria and with refugees and vulnerable host families in Lebanon and Turkey to meet basic needs, improve access to health care, and provide psychosocial support.
Yara has loved sewing since she was a child. “My mother taught me when I was a young girl and said it would always be a useful skill,” she said. “I never imagined that one day it would come to mean so much, and provide me with a small income.” Originally from Syria, Yara studied embroidery at a self-help group in Tripoli, Lebanon, run by Concern Worldwide’s local partners. She attended workshops for two hours a day, and was able to leave her younger children at a partner-run kindergarten. “Embroidery is a new skill for me,” she said. “There is so much to learn and every day we do something different. The main thing is that it occupies my mind and it stops me from thinking too much. Using my hands and creating something beautiful calms me. The lady who teaches the embroidery class is like a mother figure for us.” Yara has been living in Lebanon with her five children and husband for the past two years. “We were a close-knit family, but we had to flee Syria,” she explained. Her parents and one of her sisters were a refugee camp in Jordan, and two sisters still in Syria. “I worry about them every day.”
He fled his home in Aleppo, Syria and is currently living in Paiania, Greece. Sabri shared his story with us through Emfasis, a Greek organization responding to the needs of Syrian refugees in Greece and implementing a photography project to help Syrian children address psychological problems. Sabri is 16 years old.
“I am currently staying at a guesthouse for minors and families in Paiania, just outside Athens, Greece with my family. I’d like to go to Germany. We already know my family and I were granted permission to relocate to a German city. We are hoping to start a new page in our lives. I wish I could make people love each other — that is my dream.”
She fled her home in Pajok, South Sudan and is currently living in a refugee camp in Lamwo District, Uganda. Achan’s story was shared with us by Hope Ofiriha, a Norwegian NGO which assists South Sudanese refugees with medical care, microfinance, and education. She is 75 years old.
Achan is a widow who had eight children. Seven of her children died during the ongoing war in her home country of South Sudan. As a result, she was left with many orphans to take care of. Before the war, she was a peasant farmer in Sudan who cultivated to sustain her big family. When the war broke out in her community, she and her family ran to save their lives, leaving all their belongings behind. She believes her home has been destroyed by the rebels.
He fled his home in Aleppo, Syria and is currently living in an abandoned factory with his wife and other families in Sulaymaniyah, Iraq. Shahid shared his story with us through Global Hope Network International, which provides financial assistance to families fleeing the conflict in Syria.
“We hid ourselves on the mountain for about eight nights. From the mountain, we saw a battle between [the violent group] and the PKK [Kurdish forces], who fought very courageously. After the sun set, we went to them. They treated us with much respect and took us to a place where there were lots of Yazidis and gave us food. Thus, after eight days of walking between the Iraq and Syrian borders, they helped us reach a quiet region in Northern Iraq. From there, we drove to Sulaymaniyah City.”
She fled her home in Darfur, Sudan and is currently living with her daughter in a refugee camp in Chad. Khadegah’s story was shared with us by Darfur Women’s Network, which helps Darfuri refugees start small-scale farming and home gardening projects so they can produce their own food.
“It is very hard for me to understand the bloodshed, since I have never hurt anyone. I have seen some of my family members killed and others injured. I identify that I am a refugee from a conflict land, Darfur, Sudan. I always think about my father, my mother and the rest of my family. I think about my former neighbors of 11 years. I don’t know if they’re alive or not.”
She fled her home in Dera’a, Syria and is currently living with her family in Bekaa, Lebanon. Shafaq shared her story with us through the Middle East Children’s Alliance, which provides emergency support to newly arrived refugees in Lebanon. She is 14 years old.
“I used to have a peaceful life and live in my amazing home in Dera’a. I enjoyed the nature around my house and the food coming from the land. I woke up every morning to the sound of birds singing. The brutality of the civil war forced my family to leave this house and to start the journey to be refugees.
“Since the start of our journey, we moved a lot in Lebanon and I attended different schools. In the end my family decided to go close to the border with Syria. We came to this area because just we want to survive. My father is working as an electrician and this is the only income for our family. All of my family we are living in a tiny house with one bedroom, a small kitchen and a bathroom. We are considered illegal because we don’t have official documents.
“I am behind two years in school because of moving from one school to another. I am still doing very good in my school and I will continue to do that. I want to finish my education, to help my family, and to help other people they want to learn. I consider myself lucky to have Al Jalil Center. I got a lot of educational, emotional, and psychological support. I am also really sad because of the unknown future waiting for me. Every day I wonder where I will be tomorrow. Yes, it’s an unknown future.”
She fled her home in Kabul, Afghanistan, lived for 14 years in Tajikistan, and has recently returned to Kabul. Fouzia shared her story with us through Aid Afghanistan for Education, which works to unlock the potential of young marginalized Afghans, including former refugees and child brides, through education as a means to prepare them to fully participate in society. She is 24 years old.
“During the factional war, my family and I left the country as it became unbearable to live in Kabul. Hundreds, or I think thousands, of rockets were hitting the city every day. We left for Tajikistan and came back when we heard there is peace in Afghanistan. We lived in Tajikistan for 14 years with the hope of going back home. Tajikistan was not our country.” Fouzia wants to be a teacher to help spread peace through education in Afghanistan. For her safety, we did not share her photo, but rather another photo from AAE’s school.
Qais and Daewood
They fled their homes in Afghanistan and are currently living in Oinofyta refugee camp in Greece. Their stories were shared with us by Do Your Part, a volunteer organization that supports the Oinofyta refugee camp and its residents in Greece.
Qais and Daewood are now running a sewing business in Oinofyta refugee camp. They hope to be granted asylum in Greece so that they can raise their families in safety.
He fled his home in Homs, Syria and is now living in Amman, Jordan. Abdul’s story was shared with us by International Humanistic Psychology Association, which is providing psychosocial support to Syrian refugee children living in Jordan by conducting disaster healthcare field clinics and training local therapists.
Abdul now lives in an apartment building with forty female head of household refugee families in Amman. His father was killed in Syria. He has been seen a number of times in the psychosocial clinic run within his apartment building. Staff from International Humanistic Psychology Association visited his school because of his complaints of being bullied by one particular student. He couldn’t believe they would come to try to help him, as he had tried with the school teacher and felt unheard. He said it was one of the best things that had happened for him since they came to Jordan. Abdul hopes to drive buses, likes to help others, and loves soccer.
She and her family fled their home in Syria and are currently living with her three children in a refugee camp in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. Bara’a’s story was shared with us by Global One, which supports mothers and children through hygiene and health supplies as well as training local women as midwives to support long term development.
Bara’a still experiences trauma surrounding the birth of her youngest child, Rouba, four years ago. Her hands shake as she recalls the memory. Unable to breastfeed her daughter due to mental exhaustion, Bara’a had to rely on donations to buy formula milk to feed Rouba. But once the donations ran out after a week, Bara’a had no choice but to feed her newborn a mixture of sugar and water. She also had to take out loans to provide nappies for all of her children, who still wet themselves due to mental trauma. The uncertainty of their future makes life even more difficult for Bara’a, but this doesn’t stop her from dreaming: “My only dream is to send my children to school… I am so worried about their future.”
Noorkin and Yacob
Noorkin and her son Yacob fled their home in Myanmar when Myanmar’s military and Buddhist extremist groups started clearance operations against Rohingya people. They are Rohingya refugees currently living in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp in Bangladesh. Their story was shared with us by World Vision. Noorkin is 40 years old and Yacob is 10.
“Back in Myanmar my father was a farmer and he also went fishing. Along with my siblings, I used to attend school regularly. I was in Grade 2 when we left. We used to learn Burmese literature in school. But it all came to an end the day our house got burnt. The houses in our village was on fire. We couldn’t run to the jungle because it was on fire too. We flee to another village but that village was also attacked. We were stranded so we fled again to a canal and stayed there for two days with no food. We made it across the border and now we live here in the camps,” Yacob explained.
He continued: “I like being a leader. At the centre, I get the children together and them ask them to follow me when I am doing the actions. I tell them ‘Please, I am going to start reciting the poem, so follow me.’ I am a good boy and a quick learner. I also make other children laugh. It is fun. I want to learn more and more because I want to become a teacher when I grow up.”
“They are slowly getting back to feeling normal again,” Noorkin said about her children. “I desire a bright future for my children where they can be what they want to be.”