#SeeMeRefugee Story

Using His Experience to Empower Young People: Waheed's Journey

#SeeMeRefugee Story

Using His Experience to Empower Young People: Waheed's Journey

More than 100 million people are currently displaced worldwide (UNHCR, 2023).      

Their stories matter. 

By listening to and understanding refugee stories in their own voices, we can cultivate empathy, foster understanding, and inspire action to support refugees worldwide.   

Waheed is part of the Relief International team as a teacher in Pakistan. This is his story.

Can you share your journey as a refugee?

In 2002, our lives were turned upside down by an attack that forced us to flee our home in Afghanistan, with no choice but to leave everything behind and seek safety across the border in Pakistan. 
Our journey to Pakistan was filled with uncertainty and fear. My parents, three brothers, sister, and I found ourselves in a foreign place, faced with the daunting reality of starting over from scratch. 
The experience of displacement has taught me the value of resilience, and the importance of family and community in the face of adversity. It was challenging but also marked the beginning of a new, hopeful future. 

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced during your journey as a refugee?

I had dreams of studying medicine but due to our financial situation, I had to let go of that dream. 

Now, I am pursuing a master’s in e-commerce as well as teaching with Relief International. The experience of being a refugee has reshaped my ambitions. It’s a reminder of the sacrifices that come with displacement, not just in terms of material possessions but also the dreams we have to give up.

What milestones are you most proud of since resettling?

I was of kindergarten age when we arrived in Pakistan. My father initially helped me with my primary education, making sure I had a strong foundation. But as I grew older, I took on the responsibility of financing my own education. I worked various jobs from delivering food to working at a school.

Through these efforts, I managed to support myself and progress academically. I successfully passed my 12th standard, pursued a bachelor’s degree, and eventually a master’s degree. I am most proud of how far I have come through my determination and perseverance. 


If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self to accept the ups and downs of life. Life doesn’t always go as planned, so never let uncertainty bring you down. My childhood was full of surprises, many of which were not good, but there was always hope. I would tell myself that one day my experiences will make me who I am today—able to relate to and support the young people I teach. And that gradually, life will bring you what you need, through your own strength and with the right support.

This World Refugee Week, what message would you like to share with the world?

Refugees are not just numbers; we are people with hearts and stories of struggle. We are fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, and daughters. We want nothing more than the chance to seek safety and a chance to rebuild. By understanding different communities and their struggle, we can foster a world full of peace, justice, and empathy.

In your opinion, what is Relief International doing that brings you hope?

I am filled with hope when I see how Relief International provides essential services like education, healthcare, and livelihood programs. These efforts help individuals regain their independence and ensure a lasting impact, creating a brighter future for refugees. Relief International offers hope amidst challenging circumstances, and I am proud to be part of such a rich and supportive community. 

With 97% of Relief International staff and volunteers being local nationals, our work is often rooted in shared realities and lived experiences, meaning the work we do to help communities recover and rebuild from crisis comes from a place of experience, empathy and compassion. 


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