By the age of 14 most young boys are worrying about their school performance, their relationships with their friends, dreaming of the day they will get older, be free and able to choose for themselves. A.Z. a 14-year-old from Kabul, Afghanistan, shares the same worries, even though he has chosen his very own lifepath a long time ago.

“I’ve lost my mother when I was really young. She died when she gave birth to my brother.” Life in Afghanistan was always difficult and access to medical care and education was limited.

“I started working with my father at a building material factory outside Kabul. I was only 10 years old, but I knew I had to provide for my family. Even though it was a very hard time for me, I miss those days.” At the age of 12, on his way home, A.Z learned about the death his father.

“It was one of those moments in my life, that I won’t be ever able to forget. Also, it was the moment when I realized that I wasn’t safe, and I had to leave my country.”

After many challenges A.Z reached Chios island on January 2021 and was hosted in the Safe Area of Reception and Identification Center. It wasn’t easy at first; he found it hard to sleep, he had flashbacks and struggled with the separation from his family. But it was the first time in his life that he started to feel safe. The aim of his travel was to arrive to a country, where he could have access to education, he could be able to start his life from scratch. 

“I feel lucky that I have so much support from everyone and that I’m finally able to dream a better future. With all the support I receive from the IOM team, I have the opportunity to restart my life. I still can’t believe that I have the chance to be a child again.”

Following many discussions about his goals and dreams, he was registered in the official public high school, where he attends classes. His Greek classmates are very supportive, help him improve his language skills and he already became friend with many of them. He also attends Greek and English lessons, provided by IOM educators under the framework of non – formal education activities.

“Learning new languages like English and Greek is a challenge for me. But I know that it would be a valuable asset for my future either in Greece or in another European country.”

“Having the chance to meet new people from other countries, new cultures and different backgrounds, has widen my horizons. Although I was feeling frustrated when I first arrived in Greece, I feel now much more confident to succeed my goals and built a life that I had never imagined. Education opens so many opportunities to a child. “

He enjoys learning new things and participating to many activities to keep his mind busy and be able to provide to the other children staying in the Safe Area, which operates under EU – funded project MERIMNA. “It is so important to make your own choices about your life. It is also important to feel safe and contribute to the society,” he adds. “Now, I feel safe and ready to set my next goals. I want to study, work hard, travel the world and learn as many things I can! But mostly I want to help other children with similar background to mine, make them believe that they deserve a second chance to childhood.”

“This is why I’m interested in studying Phycology. I want to obtain the knowledge and all the available tools what will ease the pain of children with a trauma. I’ve been through the same process and I know that there’s always a way out at the end of the tunnel.”

The Safe Area team on Chios island operates under IOM’s project MERIMNA, with the support of European Commission – DG HOME.

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals