Kalsoom Jaffari can never forget the day she was forced out of her home in Pakistan. In 2012, multiple bombings shook her city as the persecution of the Hazara people became increasingly worrying. That day, Kalsoom and hundreds others lost their homes.
She fled with her brother to Malaysia, where she then made her way to Indonesia by boat. Her journey to where she is today has been nothing but challenging, something Kalsoom and her brother are still dealing with.
“When we arrived here it was very hard for us to find a house. We faced a lot of problems and challenges. The whole condition was not easy, it’s not easy to describe. When you are traveling and you don’t have any documents, and you don’t know how long you’re going to be there, long or short time. I was also scared,” said Kalsoom.
To make the transition for other refugees more comfortable, Kalsoom founded her own community called the Refugee Women Support Group. It is through this group that she aims to empower and inspire women refugees that are struggling to fit into their temporary country of transit.
“When you’re a refugee and you are in transit, most of them suffer from depression and mental health issues and the women, we don’t have any activities to do and that’s the reason to start these classes. This is the place where the women can come and share their experiences, they can talk freely, they can laugh freely,” said Kalsoom.
When the community was founded, Kalsoom only managed to gather a small group of women who shared two sewing machines. But as word spread, the community quickly grew over time. Now, they are a tight-knit group of 40 women, who meet each week to engage in several activities including sewing and knitting.
Over time, she managed to also create the Cipayung Educational Refugee Center, where she gathered volunteers that were willing to conduct daily English, Math and Science classes. Skills that Kalsoom said are crucial to many women in her group. It took Kalsoom six years to bring together this group of women, who now consider one another as family, she says creating this community in the face of struggle has been one of the biggest achievements.
Refugees creates a community in Indonesia, they meet each week to engage in several activities including sewing and knitting. (Photos: CGTN)
Feby Yonesta is the chairman of Indonesian Civil Society Network For Refugee Rights Protection. His foundation has been providing support to the 14,000 refugees that are mostly stuck in limbo in Indonesia.
Feby told CGTN that it is going to get even harder for refugees to find a proper home for themselves. Usually, the refugees in Indonesia are only here on transit, before they can permanently resettle in Australia. But Australia closed down its refugee center back in 2016. The next best hope for these refugees was the United States but even they have now enacted strict laws against refugees.
Kalsoom’s efforts are exactly what refugees need to create – a sense of belonging outside of their hometown. Despite their uncertainties, her community provides a glimmer of hope to the thousands of refugees who are continuously in search of positivity while still in transit.