“We are refugees…helping refugees.” These are the very words that left me in a fusion of awe and admiration the first time we met Hadi, a Hazara refugee, and our current partner.
I remember feeling the excitement when Mina said that we will be meeting Hadi for the first time, who is the founder of the ‘Bridge of Light and Hope’ organization. A few weeks later there I was, attempting to recollect what I had learned on traditional Muslim mannerisms, walking up to the room of Meharan who Hadi and his partner Ali -also a fellow refugee- had taken under their wing.
One thing that struck me from the visits that day was how genuine the bond is between the families and Hadi and Ali. The men would call out to their “Brothers'' in an embrace, and the ladies would greet them with the warmest of smiles, hands over their hearts. The whole experience was made more bittersweet as the children gravitated towards them to offer their stuffed animals, a display of cheer and compassion despite the dire circumstances they had and have been facing.
Like many of the families, Hadi and Ali resettled years ago in the hopes of evading the life-threatening circumstances back in Afghanistan, to build a vibrant future for themselves and unleash their lifelong aspirations. Upon their arrival in Bangkok however, they realized that there is so much more to be done. Although they have been receiving support from other organizations, it was not always provided through a system of equity. Complex systems resulting in the reception of year-long expired foods, inaccessibility of basic healthcare, and living funds are just some of the constant struggles that kept refugees and asylum seekers in a consistent state of distress and limbo.
“We cannot take care of our children properly because our living conditions are very difficult,” said Meharan. “We need food, we have no money and we are also sick and can’t visit doctors.”
The lack of inclusivity also appeared to be an issue, as Hadi and Ali felt that they were not involved in the resolution of these problems even though it is very important to them and their community.
“Since the four years which I've lived here most of the organizations do their services but no one is involved from the refugee community, so we wanted to make a change”. Hadi said, going on to explain how he felt that helping others in the same situation gives him hope.
“We believe that the change we make for them, this change is also good for us”, Ali added.
This inspired the two of them to co-found the ‘Bridge Of Light and Hope’ organization back in 2019, aiming to advocate and empower fellow refugees while collaborating with other NGOs on refugee-related issues. Through their initiatives, Hadi and Ali were able to start implementing the first of many projects intended to support other struggling refugees with much-needed necessities. This sadly had to come to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the families even more vulnerable than before.
“It has made a huge impact in our life. It's like we are in jail and can’t do anything for our life even we can’t go to other organizations to speak up our problems and get help”, Meharan said.
Recognizing the urgency, Hadi and Ali had tried to apply for cash support over a hundred times, only to be told by organizations that there are no fundings available for refugees. They have since been forced to rely mainly on periodic food packages being distributed by local churches and donors.
The disheartening circumstances had driven Hadi and Ali to work so much harder to seek support, but not without the compromise of their mental wellbeing. Both of them opened up about the immense stress and anxiety that they felt, not knowing when their next meal will be coming, where their rent money will be coming from, what they are going to do if they suddenly get caught by the police and so much more. Ali’s gaze fell to the wall behind me as he told us that this constant cycle is causing many of the refugees to have deep depression of their own.
The anticipation of resettlement is also something at the back of every refugee’s mind. It is their hope for resettlement that kept them persevering, and the possibilities coming from being able to get an education, to start working, or to simply start living without fear and finally rebuild their life. But for now, they will do what they can until that day comes. For Hadi and Ali, that’s continuing to work together with organizations like CLF to make sure that even if they are not living a full life yet, they are at least surviving.
“We've been trying to survive. Just surviving but we are not living,” Hadi added. “But we are happy to help. We have solutions for that, we can draw a map, we can plan it with you, we can propose the project, we can do everything but what is missing is an outlet with other organizations.”
Me Me Zin Oo
Intern | Program and Communications