SEATTLE — News often narrates the global migration crisis as simply a story of victims of war and poverty. But the crisis also includes stories of people who adapt and thrive as migrants. Many migrants look to their status with pride, using their circumstances as motivation to succeed in their lives. Here are five stories of migrants changing their lives for the better.
Ali started his life in a Beirut Palestinian refugee camp almost forty years ago during a series of Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian conflicts. Rola Souheil tells Ali’s story in a short nonfiction film called “The Architect.”
Ali used his status as a war refugee to excel in school, eventually becoming a Lebanese-based architect. Ali struggled through school because of being an older age. He started school much later than most students. His philosophy was that he had no other option but to carry on.
“When I was in those hard stages in my life,” he says, “I used to think of the best image of myself in the future.”
Now in his late thirties, Ali says he is happy with his life since the refugee camps. In his free time he plays the musical instrument, Oud, which he taught himself to play. “The positivity in my life goes back to the fact that the best ideas that crossed my mind were usually during the hardest stages in my life.”
In 2004, Dharmaraj Thapa left for South Korea from Nepal in search of work. He did not make enough money in Nepal and migrated to Korea two separate times in an 11-year time span. In a short documentary called “Nepal: How My Migrant Years Paid Off,” Ramesh Khadha tells Thapa’s story.
In the film Thapa explained that, “it was my childhood dream to run a farm.” While in South Korea, he learned a powerful work ethic that he says he brought back with him to Nepal. “If you work hard you will be socially respected and economically progress. Farming pays off as much as you work.”
He currently runs a mushroom farm that delivers to local market venders. Thapa cultivates a special type of red mushroom among other vegetables. The business skills he learned in Korea led him out of poverty.
Abd Karim Deiri left Aleppo, Syria after the civil war that started four years ago escalated to the point of no electricity or water for Deiri and his family. He and his family migrated to Lattakia’s-Rif in western Syria, to escape poverty and violence.
Deiri and his family had nothing when they arrived in Rif. They purchased a piece of land with what little money they pooled together to cultivate potatoes after surveying local markets and realizing that there was a shortage of the crop.
Deiri said that when he arrived, “local residents embraced us like we were family.” Rif was a very poor part of Syria when Deiri and his family started their potato plant. He employed locals that were impoverished to help run the plant. Local Khadija Idris said, “We live in very hard conditions in Syria.
So he came here and gave the locals a chance.” Idris works in the plant bagging potato chips. In a short documentary called “Syria: I am staying,”
Deiri describes the Syrian people that left the country as soon as the war began stressing that they “Didn’t help the country” and that Syrians should “Help your own country. Your country needs you the most right now.”
Mama Gul experienced the worse results of an insecure Afghanistan. At 57 years old, she lost her two sons, husband, and brother. “I had nothing in my life, nothing. No animals, no land. It was very difficult, I often went hungry,” she said.
She fled her home in the village of Chobash Kalan. A few years later she returned. She looked after her deceased brother’s four children because they no longer had a mother. Through her adversity Gul’s managed to continue her craft of weaving.
Gul used to weave for locals in her home village Chobash Kalan. She now uses the UN assistance to weave and sell Turkmen carpets of her own design and has a regular income. As a widow, she and her dependants qualified and received UN refugee agency emergency housing.
The agency gave her a solar powered lamp to help with her business. “I would not be able to see or weave without the lamp,” she explained.
At 13 years old, Rahma moved to a Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. She is 19 years old and recently returned to her home country of Somalia. She is among the hundreds of thousands of refugees that fled Somali violence and poverty. While in Kenya, Rahma learned how to read and write.
“Now I can communicate well,” she says. Her ultimate goal is to attend medical school. “I’ve studied a lot of biology because I want to become a medical doctor,” she says. “Now, I am reading a book by a South African doctor. I want to read, read, read, and continue my school studies.”
Rahma learned how to read and write because of refugee camp educational programs financed by the UNHCR and Kenyan government. Thanks to refugee programs, Rahma is closer to her goal of becoming a medical doctor.
– Michael Hopek
Sources: YouTube 1, YouTube 2, YouTube 3, UNHCR 1, UNHCR 2