Afghan boy’s journey to safety and self-realisation

asylum seeker from Georgia
Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Born in Iran, grown up in Azerbaijan and now living in Georgia – story of an Afghan boy’s journey to safety and self-realization.
Said Yusifi, 20 years old young man has spent half of his childhood in Iran facing numerous challenges in his life. Iran hosts one of the largest refugee populations globally, with the vast majority from Afghanistan. The situation of undocumented Afghans is very hard, with extreme restrictions on livelihood opportunities and access to education and healthcare, as well as a constant threat of abuse, exploitation, and deportation by Iranian authorities (Source: ACAPS,2021). Like others, Said had to go through abuse and violence every day, just to feed his family.

At the age of seven, he was offered illegal work in a furniture factory to support his mother and siblings financially. The salary was not high, but it was enough to buy simple things, such as bread.  Seven-years-old Said’s daily routine was not easy, he had to wake up at 6-7am,  due to lack of money, was not allowed to take a bus or taxi, so the road to work took him one and a half hours each way. three hours of walking every day – thinking about a better future. He worked 9 to 10 hours per day.

“I was telling myself; I am going to go to work early, do my work fast and then come back home by the time to watch cartoons, but sadly, by the time I was getting back home, it was too late for cartoons,” – says Said.

Financially supporting the family was the highest priority for Said that triggered him to start working at such a young age leaving him without an opportunity to get school education.  Even though his parents tried to explain the importance of education, he did not change his mind.

In 2009, Said and his family arrived in Azerbaijan, in hopes of a better life and freedom.  Said and his family were given a mandate status by the host Country. During the years spent in Azerbaijan, Said got interested in sports; he practiced in boxing and then karate Kyokushin. At the age of 15, he became Champion in the Eurasian contest. He was highly motivated and dedicated to self-improvement. Said also learnt four languages (Turkish, Azerbaijani, English and Russian).
When Said was 15 years old he got into a severe car accident, which caused brain damage. He was hospitalized and required rehabilitation for 3 months. Doctors refused to continue sports. This was a hard time for him which evoked a feeling of fear and frustration. Until now Said is receiving psychosocial and medical treatment.

As Said says, life in Azerbaijan introduced him to new experiences and taught him how to deal with life in many ways, but there were specific reasons why the family didn’t feel as free as they wanted to and so they decided to move to another country again.

In 2017, Said’s family had a little information about Georgia, so they searched for more on YouTube and decided to move there to start a new chapter of their life in Georgia. The main reason why they fell in love with Georgia was the feeling of freedom. He remembers the day when Georgia’s border police took Said and his family to Tbilisi and the Migration Department granted them asylum seeker status. Said had to live in Martkopi Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers for 6 months. At that time, basic needs of the family were satisfied, having shelter and food. But the strong will of achieving more did not leave Said. During this period, he worked with locals in the village of Martkopi and helped them with constructions and cleaning houses etc.

“I am going to continue improving myself, so that it will be beneficial for my future life,” -  thought Said when he first arrived in Georgia. He was motivated to continue studying and working.

One day UNHCR contacted Said and offered various services including psychological therapy, as he was struggling with childhood trauma. Another challenge that he and his siblings faced was the registration process at school. The procedures are pretty complicated in Georgia and requires a good knowledge of the regulations. Said visited the Multi-Service Center where he was greeted with warmth and empathy. The Multi-service center is a safe place for refugees, asylum seekers and stateless people where they can access resources and develop skills to promote self-reliance. World Vision Georgia created the center within the project “Community Mobilization and Participation”.
Since 2019, World Vision Georgia has worked with refugees, asylum seekers and stateless persons in Georgia to protect rights and contribute their integration into society within the framework of The UN Refugee Agency in Georgia- funded project "Community Mobilization and Participation".  More than 2000 beneficiaries are registered in the Multi-Service Center and receive diverse services regularly. WV Georgia project staff has supported Said and his family in the process of children school registration and provided the entire family of Said with Georgian language classes. With the joint efforts of UNHCR and WV Georgia, Said has finished IT college along with covering Georgian language courses.
In 2021, the COVID pandemic appeared to be a massive challenge both for Georgia and the whole world. World Vision Georgia provided food and hygienic packages together with financial assistance to all beneficiary families including Said’s family to support them during the pandemic.

Last year Said’s family divorced, and he still felt alone, as he was the only grown-up child to feed his family - mother and siblings.  However, now, he felt more confident and more robust than before; he had good IT knowledge, knew four different languages, and had a goal - taking care of his family.
For the last 6 months, Said was actively looking for a job and decided to ask WV Georgia staff for an information regarding job opportunities After evaluating Said's experience and skills, WV Georgia Employment consultant started negotiations with international partner company, Majorel, which provides outsourced technical support services for large companies worldwide. The company expressed willingness to help Said and was offered the position of a multilingual technical support specialist. He made decision immediately and accepted the offer.

Chance comes once and you have to open the door and hug it, don’t let it go, – says Said.

After approval, Said went through interviews and a two-week training course at Majorel. After selecting him for the job, he had an introductory tour about the company's mission, values, principles and the working specificities.
The first day of the job was hard for Said, but he is thankful to his coworkers who helped him with every little problem he came across in the starting phase. From the experience gained, Said thinks that it’s essential to keep attention on small details, as a tiny mistake can cause a big disaster.

“I love my job and I get full pleasure out of it. I am talking to people, helping them with their problems, also I improved my personal skills, I became more detail oriented and confident,” – says Said.

The skills developed during this job will help him with his future development. He is still in touch with people from the Multiservice Center, but Said can’t visit it as often as he used to because of a busy daily schedule. Besides Majorel, he also works as a freelancer and does small tasks such as translation, and video/photo editing.

His hobby is photography and sport activities such as ping-pong, swimming, running and gaming. During the weekends Said hangs out with his friends.  In his spare time, which is very little in his life, he prefers to stay home and think about the future.

“I cannot plan anything right now, I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, so I am living today's life and being careful about what tomorrow has to offer,” – says Said about future plans.