Monday, 16 May 2016

Child Refugee Finds Safety in Phoenix

Written by Florida Sarkis
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Joseph, now 17 years old, grew up with his family in Afghanistan. All of that changed when he was forced to flee for his safety and became a refugee.

Escaping the Taliban

Joseph and many students from his school were kidnapped by the Taliban where they were kept locked in a classroom until they were able to escape. He feared the Taliban would look for him, with his uncle’s help he decided to leave Afghanistan. He traveled over 6,000 miles to Indonesia.

Joseph was living in a shelter but after many months, he heard from friends in Afghanistan that his parents had been killed by the Taliban. This lead to behavioral problems and he got kicked out of the shelter. He was homeless and lived on the streets of Jakarta. He used drugs and alcohol to cope and became an addict.

Joseph began sleeping on the sidewalk outside of the UNHCR office. After a couple of days a case manager noticed him and questioned his status in the country. The case manager helped Joseph by registering him as a refugee minor and Joseph became eligible to resettle to a third country.

Arriving in Phoenix

In May 2015 Joseph joined the Unaccompanied Minor Program (UMP). When Joseph arrived in Phoenix he was placed in a traditional foster family. Soon it became apparent that he needed more help. His case manager recommended a therapeutic foster placement.  Therapeutic foster parents receive extra training to learn to manage more serious trauma and special needs. 

Joseph started high school in Phoenix as a freshman. His school performance has taken everyone by surprise. His school counselor admired his dedication and willingness to do well in school. He was allowed to take examinations in different subjects and earn credits; he is now a senior in his high school; he skipped 3 years of high school due to his academic excellence. 

Bright Future

This success in school changed him tremendously. When he first arrived he told his case manager “I don’t care if I live or die,” but after almost a year, he has changed to a successful young man who wants to be a lawyer. 

Joseph will “fight to live,” as he says, so he can help his siblings and other Afghani children.

Learn more about how you can help refugees and kids in our Unaccompanied Minor Program.

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