How about we stop building apps for refugees and top up their phones instead?

“This phone saved me when I was dumped into the back of a car with four other boys and covered in a plastic tent.…this phone is my HERO!” Fahim Safi

Today’s blog is a guest post from Fahim Safi. Originally from Afghanistan, Fahim is now seeking asylum in Belgium and acts as one of the administrators of the mind-boggling group, “Mobile Credit for Refugees and Displaced People.” This volunteer-run organization has already provided over $750,000 of mobile credit to people on the move. No this isn’t yet another effort to build “apps for refugees” here — it’s simply a question of topping off their phones, and it’s one of the smartest solutions we’ve seen.

You may ask, but do people really need mobile credit? Isn’t that a luxury? We’ve written about this before, but if you have any doubts read Fahim’s story — you’ll get it.* (And then jump on to support people like Fahim at their NeedsList.)

“I was forced to leave my country, my beloved Afghanistan. I was looking for a safe country so that I could live longer for those who love me. The day I went to say farewell to my folks and friends — my mother knew how important it was for me to have a mobile lifeline. She gifted me this phone you see in the picture below.

Fahim’s phone, his hero, his lifesaver.

When I was climbing a mountain to cross the border from Iran to Turkey my phone fell on the rocks and its screen was totally damaged — but it was still working. I could dial the number but I could not see what I wrote. At night, I would tell my mother about the situations I faced after a hard fight for survival during the day.

This phone helped me when I was dumped into the back of a car with four other boys and covered in a plastic tent. The tent stopped the air from entering. The car was moving fast. I felt my breaths shortening, my lungs began to empty, my eyes began to close, and I could tell that I was going to lose consciousness. I could also see those other four boys nearly dying.

The driver didn’t care about our shouts and screams. None of the others had a phone to call to the smuggler back home to force the driver to do something. In fact it was strictly forbidden to use phones and make calls while in the car, especially in border areas. But life is much more important and precious than the warning and threats of the smugglers.

I had no other solution but to take my phone with its broken screen out of my pocket and dial the number and explain the situation.

I was taking heavy breaths. My hands and legs became light and situation became worse as the call ended. My eyes were closed and I did not understand what happened next. After a long journey when I opened my eyes I was in the front seat next to the driver feeling the warm breeze of Turkey.

This phone is my HERO. It helped me and four others live a few more moments of this precious life .
Fahim, left, waiting for smuggler after crossing Iranian/Turkish border and right, having arrived safely in Belgium.

Going through many difficult phases and hardships in life, I always wanted to be able to help others in need and do something for those who are displaced, far from home. Eventually I met my friend Yoon, who asked me to be an administrator in the Phone Credit for Displaced People group. When I first heard about this I was so excited and thought, “Now I have the opportunity to help.” Our group is based on charity and we help others when we receive donations. If you want to donate and help others in need you can click on the link below. Make someone smile.

Fahim arrived in Brussels in February 2016 and lived in a camp for seven months after submitting his application for asylum. He is now working as a cashier in a mini market and waiting for his last interview to see if he will be granted asylum in Belgium.

If you are in the United States, you can purchase mobile credits to help top-up a phone on their NeedsList, or make a monthly recurring tax-deductible donation. If you are in the UK, you can support this group and receive GiftAid through this donation page.

*These words are entirely Fahim’s — this story has only had minor grammatical edits and is adapted from a Facebook post with his permission.

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