Millions displaced,
One Journey,
Six Stories

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The picture of Sri Lankan refugees walking with their luggage
Credit: Flickr MM/ JRS

There are 100 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. Each of these is a person with a story of struggle, hope and resilience.

The pain of separation from home, loved ones, language and culture can linger for years – Sometimes felt as a sudden sharp scratch and sometimes as a reoccurring injury.

SADA tells a single story of displacement through six of the 100 million, in their own words.

boys by the canal
Credit: Abd Al Hakim, Afghan Media Resource Center

Sada means voice in Farsi.

It brings you six stories from refugees about what it means to leave home. It is an invitation to the world to understand.

Years can pass between leaving home and resettlement, leaving people in painful uncertainty. On average a displaced person can spend up to 15 years in limbo, waiting to arrive in a safe place.

The boy standing in the desert
Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

There are 6 chapters, each representing a different stage of the journey from displacement to resettlement.


The decision

The decision to leave your home is often made in haste, when nothing is safe.
It’s a decision to leave your entire life behind for an unknown, remote future. Most people have no idea what will happen to them – their only plan is to get away.

On the 15th August 2021, the Taliban entered Kabul, cementing their control of Afghanistan. Maryam was taking a cab to work.

This is her story.

SisterMaryam, where are you?
Dad is worried.
Maryam, what is happening?
What are we going to do?
MaryamEveryone is saying the Taliban are in the city
I don't know, it could just be another rumour
ColleaguesMaryam, everyone is leaving the office.
You should go home too.
Go get some money, the banks are closing
Do you need any help getting home?
People are panicking
I can see people crying and saying goodbye to each other
DadWhere are you??
MaryamI can hear shots being fired
DadYou need to come home NOW
Maryam escape to the airport
My mum is asking me to cover my hair.
She's scared so I'll do it to reassure her
Auntie We're all scared for you Maryam
Maryam Anahita and I are at the Airport. We're leaving it's no longer safe for us
I don't know when we will meet again
What will you do?
MaryamI don't know… I am heartbroken
ElhamIf you can, get out of the country.
I thought everything would get better but it hasn't. We've lost everything
I don't have any hope left
I have nothing left to live for in this country
How can things change so quickly?
JournalistMariam send me your documents
Send me a recent picture
Have you applied previously for a visa?
MaryamIt's not just for me, it's for my sister too.
Maryam you can’t leave with your family, they won't get the papers. Please leave
I have to protect her
She always got scared when there was an attack in Kabul.
She would cry every time a bomb went off at night.

Maryam was evacuated from Afghanistan on the 24th of August, 2021.

In less than 7 days her entire life was thrown into chaos and she became a refugee.

Afghanistan has been at war for 42 years. Maryam is one of more than 2.6 million Afghan refugees around the world.


The journey

Leaving is just the beginning.

The journey to safety is often a dangerous, uncertain one with no guarantees.

Thousands of refugees die making the journey to safety. Many more are denied entry to a safe country and their right to seek international protection.

Since the war began in Syria almost 6 million Syrians have fled the country, including almost 2.7 million children. Yasser and his family fled to Turkey from their home in Syria.

This is their story.

Millions of families are living in conflict zones, including 426 million children. Parents often leave to protect their children and keep them safe.

Children affected by war are more likely to suffer from PTSD (47%), depression (43%) and severe anxiety (27%). Early adverse experiences of trauma and toxic stress can affect physical wellbeing, making people more vulnerable to chronic illnesses including cancer and heart disease.

Strong family bonds and care and safe relationships can protect children from the worst impacts of early trauma.


The arrival

Arriving in a “safe” place doesn’t automatically mean safety. Refugees experience the strain of hostile policies, racism and often arduous asylum processes that can cause severe anxiety and distress.

Refugees are prevented from working and often can’t access basic services like health and education. They lose a sense of agency and control over ordinary life.

Ruth and her baby son made the journey from DRC to Greece and arrived in Lesvos in May 2020.
This is their story.

I didn’t know where my son and I would end up when I started our journey. I didn’t know what would happen.

When we arrived in Greece I heard a lot of different things like “there’s a route through here to Belgium” “here you have to do your interview” “ you need to go to Athens for this reason”. I didn’t understand everything that was going on; I didn’t even know at first that I would have to do an interview. It was a whirlwind.

After two months we were sent to Moria and that’s where they took my fingerprints. They told me my asylum interview would be in two months. Two months later Moria burned down.

I asked them when my interview would be and they didn’t tell me. They would tell me to go away and wait to be contacted.

Honestly, I was so scared about the interview. Mine and my son’s future depended on it. I had no idea what would happen.

When the fire happened, I was in disbelief. It took me a while to realise what was happening and the seriousness of it.

You couldn’t breathe during the fires. There was chaos everywhere, smoke and then teargas. My son fainted in my arms. A man tried to revive him but he fainted again from everything that was going on around us. He opened his eyes but couldn’t hold his head; he was so tired.

We couldn’t breathe in the smoke and my son got sick.

This was the lowest point. I left my country only to protect my son. But at this moment I felt lost and I didn’t know why these things were happening. I asked God “what are you trying to show me?”

Telling your story is difficult. It hurts, there’s a lot of emotions.

When I did my interview I was alone with my son next to me. They would ask the same questions over and over, sometimes using different words, to try and see if you’re lying.

Different interviewers came in and out. I cried a lot.

When my asylum claim was approved I screamed; I sang. It made me forget everything my son and I went through.

But as soon as I got it I had to leave the shelter and the stress started again. They explained to me that when you get your asylum that’s it. I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I came to the mainland and got out of the ferry with nothing in my hand.

I had a rollercoaster of feelings during my journey. I didn’t know what would happen from one day to the next and my son saw a lot of hard things. Sometimes we think that in Europe all the pain will go away but it’s not the case.

But I kept hope that one day the pain would be over and we would have a normal life. I try not to dwell on the past and give joy to myself so that I can keep going and keep hope inside me. Things weren’t easy, but at the end of everything my son and I are free because I persevered.

Despite the many challenges faced, people who have been displaced often have a remarkable degree of resilience.

Resilience isn’t about being ‘tough’, but about being flexible, connected and working through emotional pain to overcome hardship.

It’s this resilience that, in the face of trauma, allows someone to keep going.



Settling into a new life can be a reminder of the loss refugees have experienced. For many refugees, grief is a fundamental part of the resettlement process. It can be an isolating and lonely experience.

Rahma was resettled from Iraq to the North of England with her husband in 2019. Her daughter was born in early 2021.

This is her story told by objects important to her.

Select an object to hear Rahma tell its history.



Select an object to hear Rahma tell its history.

jude vest

The number of refugees worldwide is growing.

Behind each number is a person who has had to uproot their lives to start again, often without their loved ones around them.

Remaking a community that will care and carry people through the difficulties of resettlement is fundamental to recovery after such loss.


The present

Being ”forced” to leave everything familiar behind can take a lifetime to overcome.

Even decades later it remains an injury to the soul, capable of rebreaking your heart.

Afghan filmmaker Jawed Taiman first left Afghanistan 30 years ago and now lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.

This is his film.

The emotional impact of war and forced displacement can leave scars that take a lifetime to heal.

Asylum seekers and refugees are more likely to suffer from mental health challenges, even after they arrive at a place of relative safety.

The antidote to this suffering is connection, belonging and joy.


The new war

Strong, caring relationships have the power to help us through the most difficult of times. A community that listens, understands and cares for us can help restore inner feelings of safety, often lost during traumatic experiences. This is especially true for children for whom trauma can threaten their long-term development without the right support.

Yana never planned to work with refugee children. She also didn’t plan for war to come to her home. After she fled from Ukraine to Poland, she found sanctuary in supporting children who had escaped the same war as her. Yana shares her story and her work with us here:

Consistent, caring relationships with adults are a protective factor against the worst impacts of trauma for children.

Those who devote themselves to helping others also need care. Amna works with frontline workers and volunteers to support their wellbeing when providing emergency services and healing support.

Community and connection, with oneself and others, are key to healing and forms the centre of Amna’s work.

Donate to support our work.