From fleeing for their lives, to finding peace of mind

Our Better World
~ Sara: A flight to safety
~ Hicheal: The story of a notebook
~ HEI: Bridge to mental wellness
~ Building resilience, creating acceptance

Health Equity Initiatives is helping refugees in Malaysia find the mental well-being and resilience they need to survive

Refugees and migrants wait to be transferred to camps on the mainland

Photo by Amin Kamrani

LISTEN: “As a human being, I just want to help everyone, not just refugee communities. There is no potential and opportunity for me, but I want to empower and motivate my community.”

Volunteer at Health Equity Initiatives and refugee

They might talk about the struggle to make ends meet in a country in which they are not allowed to work legally.

Or they might share a memory of home, which they were forced to flee.

Or they might voice their ever-present anxiety of wondering if they will ever be resettled in a country where they can live, work and play as citizens.

These are stories that Sara [not her real name] has heard many times.

As a volunteer Community Health Worker for Health Equity Initiatives, a Malaysian non-profit, Sara helps out at such group support sessions, which helps refugees learn about their mental health needs, and how to cope.

Having fled from Afghanistan to Malaysia in 2014, Sara understands all too well how the participants feel.


When the Taliban came knocking, Sara and her husband knew it was time to leave.

Her husband, whose job involved transporting oil, had been picked up by Taliban forces and told he had to work for them, or risk his family’s safety.

“They threatened him, [saying] that they know our address and also the family, and they will do whatever they want,” recalls Sara. “When my husband came back home, he was very anxious and very distressed, and told me and [his parents] to escape from the village.”

His parents however, refused to flee, believing their son was the target, not them. Before they parted ways, Sara’s mother-in-law gave her grandson, who was just eight months old at the time, a rosary.

“She put it on my son’s neck and said, ‘God bless you and God protect you. And wherever you go, just pray to God.'”

Later, when Sara and her husband reached Kabul, they learnt that back in their village, her husband’s parents had been shot in their home by gunmen.

For Sara, the rosary brings back feelings of grief, but is also a reminder of home, and that she is not alone.

“It gives me motivation to continue my life, especially to fight for my kids. Because although we lost our mother-in-law and father-in-law, we didn’t lose our hope. We didn’t lose our resilience.”
These thoughts fuel Sara when she encounters refugees like herself who have experienced trauma. “I try to motivate them, try to empower and encourage them. And also mostly I try to let them know that there is a God, who is the witness and who will help us,” she says.

Sara’s home in Malaysia. [Photos by Sara]

Malaysia is currently host to some 177,800 refugees and asylum seekers, providing a transitory home as they seeking safe resettlement in a third country. In Southeast Asia, only Thailand hosts more displaced persons (573,518 including stateless persons).

Refugees and asylum seekers usually arrive bearing trauma from the persecution and conflict they experienced in their home countries.

In addition, they are grappling with being separated from loved ones, coping in their host country, and face constant and tremendous anxiety regarding their well-being and future.

Yet their mental health – essential to the survival of all human beings – is usually overlooked amid other needs.

READ MORE HERE:–to-finding-peace-of-mind/index.html?utm_source=taboola&utm_medium=msn-anaheim-uk&utm_content=Refugees+seeking+peace+after+persecution&utm_campaign=refugee_repromote#tblciGiC8RzU5cP4CP1f7-IVzpGierqmvX0AJy7K3_Qr05sN_aiCPuj0

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