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  • Writer's pictureStacey Chiew

The Power Of Hope and Resilience

You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships every day. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. - Epicurus
Photo: Ekhlas Ahmed

To most of us, tomorrow is just a "normal", perhaps a boring day: work, eat, sleep, repeat. To the refugees, however, the word ‘tomorrow’ means something else. With each rise of the sun, torn between hope and despair, they dream of a future which may never come.

In 2014, at the age of thirteen, Ekhlas Ahmed was forced to leave her country, Somalia, a place she'd call home. The ongoing civil war and conflicts left her family with no choice but to carefully plan an escape. Amidst the chaos, their survival instinct kicked in. One night, they fled for safety and sought refuge in another country, Egypt. They were officially labelled as refugees.

Ekhlas left her war-torn country with her mother and two older siblings. The brave decision saved their lives, but their loved ones were left behind, including Ekhlas’s father.

"It is hard to live in a world filled with so much fear and uncertainty. I am not sure anyone would truly understand what we have been through, unless they experienced it themselves." Said Ekhlas.

If there is something that they learned from the war, it was the power of resilience to survive unexpected situations. Like many of the refugees, their basic rights were denied in Egypt. They had little choice but to accept things as they were and adapt to changes. Deep down, they knew that the price for freedom was high. At the same time, they also knew very well that the feeling of peace was priceless.

Despite the hardship, Ekhlas continued to dream the "impossible dream". - the right to go to school. Due to her refugee status, she was not allowed to go to school in Egypt. The doorway to education was shut down completely.

They moved to Sudan after living in Egypt for two years. During their stay in Sudan, Ekhlas mother applied for Refugee and Humanitarian visas to Malaysia. Six months later, their visas were approved.

In 2016, they arrived Malaysia safe and sound! However, like most of the countries, refugee children are not given access to Malaysian schools. Despite the setback, fortunately, there are a few local refugee schools supported by the United Nations Refugee Agency that provide free education to refugee children. Ekhlas’s dream to continue high school finally came through. She was granted permission to enrol herself at Fugee School in Kuala Lumpur. The school was founded by a group of university students and currently managed by formal Ms Malaysia Deborah Henry.

At Fugee School, Ekhlas has the opportunity of meeting teachers from other countries. She learns new skills from them, this helps her broaden her perspectives of the world.

Being out of school for more than two years means Ekhlas has got a lot of catching up to do. However, she is not afraid of hard work. She believes education can help her achieve her ambition and open new doors to new possibilities.

Diving into entrepreneurship is something Ekhlas hopes to do in the future. “I would like to become a businesswoman and be successful in what I do. I also want to help others to succeed in life. To do that, I need to become their role model and be successful in what I do.”

Going to school gives Ekhlas a sense of purpose, dedication and direction. However, cultural adjustment in a new country can be quite challenging for any teenager. Ekhlas was once shy and quiet. The words of encouragement and praise from her teachers were like rain that provides nourishment to the plants. Slowly, she opened up her world and learned to communicate better. She developed an interest in public speaking. Today, she enjoys sharing her story with others in the hope that her experience will inspire them to become a better version of themselves

With sheer willpower and support from her teachers, Ekhlas is currently a year ten student. She hopes to sit for IGCSE exams next year and further her studies at a local university. Despite being a busy student herself, Ekhlas also works as an assistant teacher, teaching math, science and English to preschool refugee children daily.

Ekhlas is thankful for the education she received in Malaysia. Now in school, she is one step closer to achieving her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

Article published in Dreamic Educational Magazine, 2018.

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