It is estimated that around 2,000 unaccompanied refugee minors come to Austria each year seeking refuge from war, terror, torture and poverty. In Salzburg and Biwak Hall in Tyrol, SOS Children’s Villages Austria is providing unaccompanied refugee children and young people with the care they need to find safety and build a brighter future.
Jamal* is just one example of the many young people that SOS helps. In his new home in Austria, he is able to realize his full potential despite the hardships he experienced as a young person forced to flee his home country in search of safety.
How old were you when you first arrived at the SOS Biwak program for unaccompanied minors and refugees?
I arrived at Biwak Hall in Tyrol at the age of 16.
How old are you now?
I am 20 years old.
What was life like before you joined the SOS Austria program for unaccompanied minors and refugees?
I left Syria at the age of 15 and spent over two months on the road to Austria. I was pretty exhausted, frustrated and depressed at the time. At the refugee camp in Traiskirchen, the circumstances were terrible and there was no special care for minors. By terrible circumstances, I mean things like sharing a tent with three other people and not being able to sleep because of the cold. It was extremely difficult at that time.
What SOS services and support did you receive? How did these help you?
I left Traiskirchen and as soon as I arrived in Tyrol SOS [program staff] welcomed me and showed me around. I finally had a proper shelter and was having regular meals.
A couple of days later I was sent to a German course. I expressed my wish to carry on my education at school. [SOS program staff] explained me all about the education system in Austria and what it took to successfully apply. Because of this, I managed to enter school again.
She attended the same school and talked to the headmaster about me then he offered me the great chance of pursuing my education at his school. I even received private tutoring in German among other school subjects. I found a home in there and I started feeling better and improving at school. I owe SOS and everyone who is a part of it or contributes to this organization.
Have any members of your family joined you in Austria?
My parents joined me in Austria. They are learning German and they are glad to be by my side.
What motivated and inspired you to keep pursuing your dreams and goals in a new country?
It was not easy for me to lose everything I had and just leave my family members and loved ones behind. I knew I was granted a chance by SOS and I had to make the best out of it. It was not easy to keep up with people who speak another language that I do not speak.I was always in disadvantage in this perspective. But, I always thought about all the people who do not have the possibility to attend school and I was thankful for the opportunity. The least I could do was to do my best to succeed in school and that mindset helped me a lot.
What are you doing these days and related, what do you want to do in your future?
I am majoring in Computer Science and working at the head office of SOS Austria. I would like to graduate college and then start working as a software engineer. Who knows, maybe for SOS.
Many people have helped you along your journey, who would you like to give a special thanks to?
I would like to thank everyone who believed in me at times when I personally did not believe I would achieve what I achieved.
I would like to thank SOS, my family, people who helped me to learn German, everyone who works for SOS and naturally the donors who are the reason this organization is so successful.
What message or highlight would you like share with Canadians about SOS Children’s Villages’ work?
I believe every child deserves a good life and a chance and SOS Children’s Villages granted me this chance which is the reason why I am where I am today.
*Name changed for privacy concerns
Canadians wishing to help vulnerable children are encouraged to sponsor a child, sponsor a Village or make a one-time donation. Your support will change the lives of orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children. Please help today.