Kindness goes a long way

Sayed’s hope carried him from Afghanistan to Australia. A little kindness helped him start his life here. Sayed felt the boat shudder to a halt the second night into the journey. Everyone had felt it, and he knew immediately: the sole remaining engine had broken.
Sayed now has a stable job and a home with his wife. Photo: Aysha Leo/Australian Red Cross.

He and his wife Sayeeda had spent months getting to this point in their journey. From Afghanistan to Indonesia then onto Australia by boat.

Sayed never wanted to leave Afghanistan. He had tried against all the advice from his family to get their home in Mazar-i-Sharif back from the group who took it, only to have a gun put to his head and beaten to within an inch of his life.

Then they tried to live in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital but the violence was too much. Every night he and Sayeeda would awake to the sound of bombs exploding. Every night she would cry, begging to leave. Go anywhere. Just get out of Afghanistan.

So they got on the boat.

Happier days: Sayed in Afghanistan, a place he says he never wanted to leave.

“I will never forget the things that happened in the seas,” says Sayed.

Sayed thought they would die that night, but they didn’t. Fourteen days after the boat engine broke, all 92 passengers on board were taken to Christmas Island. They spent almost a year in detention.

During that time Red Cross teams would visit regularly to give people information, help them find missing family members, or just sit and listen. A kindness Sayed says he will never forget.

Once released into the Australian community, they did not have much in the way of resources, having spent all their money getting to Australia. That’s when they turned again to Red Cross.

Red Cross caseworker Adrian Boc helps organise emergency assistance for people in situations like Sayed’s. (Photo: Australian Red Cross/Aysha Leo)

Red Cross caseworker Adrian Boc remembers Sayed well.

“The first time I met Sayed I was struck by his attitude.  He had a lot of things going on at the time, a lot of really difficult things and he was just so ready to work and was so hopeful.”

In the first difficult months, Red Cross was able to help in practical ways, like vouchers for food and medicines, and emergency cash for rent. Then illness struck, and the family’s medical expenses soon ran to thousands of dollars.

“We got a special letter from Red Cross that helped with our medical bills. Red Cross was the only organisation that could help us, and we could manage a bit more with our life. That letter changed many things,” Sayed recalls.

"I feel like the times are changing. We can follow all the hopes we have and start planning a life to build."

When enterprising, hardworking people are trying to make ends meet, every bit of help goes a long way.

“People need to be really creative to survive in the community, but it really does make an impact. I’ve had clients come to me once things have improved and they’re just so grateful,” says Adrian.

Since then Sayed has had a positive decision on his visa and was able to get a job at a local Afghan restaurant in Adelaide. With help from Red Cross, he and Sayeeda have found a safe place to live.

Now they’re looking forward to a bright future.

“I feel like the times are changing,” Sayed says. “We can follow all the hopes we have and start planning a life to build.

“Since 2014 we worried every night, every day that we would have to go back. It’s an important thing, that Red Cross gave us the emergency relief. It gave us hope.”

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