Her escape by boat from Yemen to Ethiopia felt like a beautiful cruise for Maryiam. Yet the Yemeni refugee would prefer to return to her old life. “I miss my friends.”
Seventeen people. So many were on the boat that Maryiam (22) used to flee from Yemen to Ethiopia. The day she left by boat is a pleasant memory for her. The water and the blue sky, the food, and her company: it still brings a smile to her face. Nobody tried to stop them during their trip to Djibouti. The boats that left before and after her were also able to reach the other side without any problems. Once in Djibouti, the refugees spread throughout Africa; some would travel to Nigeria, others tried to reach Egypt or the US.
During our conversation with the petite Maryiam, her smile regularly fades away. Several times tears appear in her dark eyes, and she swallows a lump. “My life in Yemen was good; my childhood was great. I had everything; a big house, a friendly neighborhood, and great friends. It was my dream to go to college in Yemen, although it was too dangerous to go outside by then. When the war started in 2015, life changed. The flying fighter jets and bombing frightened us beyond belief. At one point, the situation was so severe that we decided to leave. I feel sad when I think about my past life – it is hard to talk about it. “
“When we arrived in Djibouti, I ended up in a camp with my eight family members. We stayed there for ten days, with about a hundred other people. Our final destination was Ethiopia, where my sister lived. After those ten days had passed, we drove to her house, where we stayed for a few days. Then we left for Addis Ababa.
I can’t go to school here in Ethiopia. As a result, and also because my mother thinks it is not safe on the street, I stay at home all day, and I have nothing to do. I find this very difficult; I am young and would like to continue my life and develop myself. Because I can’t do anything here, I was excited when a friend suggested that I follow one of ZOA’s programs.
I am glad ZOA gave me the opportunity to participate in a program that supports girls and teaches them how to deal with problems. I thought it was fantastic. Before I joined, I felt useless and did not know what I wanted to do with my life. The training helped me to make plans for the future and to dream about the next step. After the training, I was allowed to learn how to sew, and I could apprentice six months as a seamstress. Since then, I have been making a lot of clothes and have hope again.”
I am glad ZOA gave me the opportunity to participate in a program
“I live here in Addis with my mother and family members. My father left, before we fled from Yemen, with my brother to America. Before we could follow them in their tracks, President Trump blocked the possibility for Yemenis to travel to the USA. My father occasionally tries to send money to us so that we can survive here.
Of course, we would love to be reunited with my father, but because that is not possible at the moment, we may return to Yemen if the situation improves. We are glad that Ethiopia wanted to take care of us when we could no longer live in Yemen, but would like to go somewhere where we can have a better life. I want to become a doctor so that I can help people in need. I believe that everyone should be helped in a friendly and humane way.”
ZOA helps people like Maryiam affected by conflict and natural disasters from relief to recovery. Want to join our team of committed colleagues? Check the vacancies.