“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 pac