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The Stories

Amira is one of 30 million children living as a refugee

Amira is one of 30 million children living as a refugee

Amira is a pretty normal 16 year-old. She’s got the usual interests: pop music, boys and her mobile phone.

But, along with 30 million other children and young people around the world she’s a refugee. Amira lives in a camp with her family after fleeing the civil war in Syria. This is her story, in her own words.


One night the bombs were coming closer and closer. We were all sitting together downstairs because we couldn’t sleep. As houses were being destroyed one by one in our village, neighbours were running from one house to the next. So some neighbours were gathered in our house too.

A rocket landed on the roof of our house, but no one was injured. We ran in fear to another house. We were so terrified we didn’t even think about taking anything with us. Soon after, our house was totally destroyed. We left with no IDs, nothing.

Our dad took us out of the country through a smuggler. We escaped that night in a rented car. Whenever we passed a checkpoint, we hid under the seats of the car and the driver covered us up.

We crossed the border illegally, through the mountains. We got out near the border and had to walk across the mountain. When we heard a plane, we started running. We were very scared.


When we arrived at the refugee camp, there were already many tents. We bought some materials to make a tent – some wood and plastic sheeting. The men built it. Our tent has two rooms and a kitchen area. There are 13 of us living here.

The neighbours helped us by giving us things like bottled water, mattresses, blankets, cups and plates. We could pick up and leave at any time, as we don’t have anything of value here. My most treasured things are my necklaces. I wear them all at the same time, because they have many memories. One was given to me by a boyfriend, but I don’t want my mother to know about that!

We have so many needs that you can’t count them. At home things were cheap. Everything is expensive here. We even have to pay for water. In winter there was snow halfway up the sides of our tent and we couldn’t even see out of it. At home we had our own bedrooms, but here we all sleep together in the tent on the ground.

We can’t go to school here, and there are no jobs available because too many people are looking for work. We don’t even have any books. So we just help out with cooking and cleaning, or watch TV all day. We are really bored.

To pass the time we do each other’s hair and draw pictures of each other, or listen to popular songs on the TV. We also make our own clothes.

We are afraid because the government doesn’t know we are here. If they find out, we could be sent back to Syria. But the UN protects us.

Some of the people who are not registered go into the mountains and hide whenever the officials come to count people in the camp. Then they come back to the camp afterwards.

We’ve been here for three years now. We miss everything about home. We would love to go back.


We hear from home mostly via Whatsapp and sometimes TV. Only a few old people are still living in our village. There are a few rooms still standing in the destroyed houses, and they live in those.

We have to pay for water to be brought in by truck, but it’s very dirty. But now we have a water filter in our tent. We now have a latrine that was installed by an NGO. We receive food distributions, so we have enough food. We make large amounts of simple meals that we can share out easily for all the children, like rice, beans and peas. There are shops, hairdressers and tailors here.

It helps to know that we are not alone, as there are many others here in the same situation as us.

We’ve been here for three years now. We miss everything about home. We would love to go back.

Tearfund is providing food, stoves and hygiene goods for young people like Amira. Tearfund are also providing counselling for parents to learn ways of coping with the trauma they have experienced and how to help their children feel safe and secure.

Please pray for Amira, her family and the 50 million other people like her who find themselves as refugees, fleeing their homes and homelands in search of safety and a better future.

Ethiopia’s quiet Revolution

Ethiopia’s quiet Revolution

Tearfund’s self-help group programme in Ethiopia has grown dramatically since the first group was set up in 2002. Today there are estimated to be more than 12,000 such groups, impacting the lives of more than 1 million people.

Not so very long ago, Buzunesh Gebru could not imagine her world would ever change. Life revolved around raising her children and doing the household chores. Her husband’s salary was not enough to sustain the family and Buzunesh felt trapped. ‘We didn’t save, we spent unwisely and were trapped in abject poverty,’_she says. _‘I never thought I could be capable of doing anything.’ But then Buzunesh, who lives in Hawassa in southern Ethiopia, was invited to join a local self-help group called Alama Yalew (‘We have vision’).

From that point on, her outlook changed dramatically. After saving with the group for a while, she was able to take out a loan and buy cattle to breed, with support and advice from her fellow group members and the group’s facilitator. ‘I found people who respect my ideas and value my feelings,’ says Buzunesh. ‘I realised the hidden potential deep inside of me. I started to feel like someone important. ‘[Now] we are sending our children to school; we feed them three meals a day; we buy them clothes twice a year. This is all because I work and I know how to manage my own resources.’

Strength in numbers

Buzunesh’s success story has been replicated thousands of times since the first self-help group supported by Tearfund was set up in Nazareth, 55 miles east of Addis Ababa, in 2002. In fact, there are thought now to be about 12,000 such groups, impacting the lives of more than 1 million people. Buzunesh’s own group, Alama Yalew, was set up in 2009. Though most of its 18 members are female, two members are men. Together, they represent 98 household members, including 62 children. Group members started by saving 3p each a week but that amount has now risen to 7p a week.

Gradually, they’ve been able to start making low-interest loans to group members, ranging from £3 to £23. These loans have enabled members to start businesses, send their children to school, cover medical expenses, and buy livestock and fertiliser for farming. The facilitator helps build their capacity by providing training in savings and credit management. There’s also advice available on issues such as family planning. Alama Yalew group members say they now plan to buy a grinding mill, open a grain store, sell flour and spices, and open an adult education centre.

Pulling together

Late in 2014, Irish Aid announced €212,000 in funding to Tearfund Ireland for the self-help group programme in Wolaita and Sidama, Ethiopia, over a two-year period . This is fantastic news – but the need is still huge. With your help, we can help the self-help group movement to grow even further and touch more lives. More groups means more people working together to help feed their families, send their children to school and bring real and lasting change to their communities.

Improving food security in the Central Africa Republic

Improving food security in the Central Africa Republic

It’s been described as the worst crisis most people have never heard of. Bitter conflict has left thousands dead and driven nearly half a million people from their homes in the Central African Republic (CAR), the majority to poorly equipped camps.

More than half of the country’s 4.6 million population are in urgent need of food, water, sanitation and healthcare.

Tearfund Ireland supported by Irish Aid and working with 12 local churches and through our implementing church partners is seeking to improve food security by providing seeds for fast growing crops, distributing tools and providing training on farming techniques and soil conservation. Church based volunteers will also help facilitate practical cooking demonstrations and teaching nutritionally diverse recipes.

This programme will run until the end of June and cover the staple crop planting season which starts in April. Please pray for the people for the Central African Republic that this season’s planting will be a successful one and many will experience improved access to food and greater food security.

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Critical malnutrition in South Sudan

Critical malnutrition in South Sudan

Civil unrest in South Sudan over the last 15 months has led to 1.5 million people fleeing their homes and family upon family going without food, having been unable to plant crops.

In January this year, Tearfund with support from Irish Aid, started a programme in Northern Bahr el Ghazal as an emergency food response to critical malnutrition. 370 households will benefit from the intervention which identifies households that are vulnerable to food insecurity and malnutrition. Households which have a child who has been registered as suffering from chronic malnutrition will receive additional food sources to ensure that the family has adequate food available to feed all members of the household, as well as the child suffering from malnutrition. This is to ensure that specific food supplements for the severely malnourished child are not shared with the other siblings.

Tearfund’s local partner is The Episcopal Church of South Sudan, who will also receive training during the programme on how to engage the community to address their needs using their own resources to contribute to long term sustainability.

Please pray for the fragile signs of peace in South Sudan. An agreement has been signed between the President and the rebel commander, in which warring parties agree to cement a peace agreement by 5 March. The hope is that this will bring 15 months of conflict to an end. According to current plans, the President will remain in post and a Vice President will be elected from the rebel side. Several previous peace deals and ceasefires in South Sudan have been broken. Cry out to God in prayer that this deal will hold, and that the people of South Sudan will very soon be able to live in peace and safety.

Pray for conflicting parties, diplomats and peacemakers as they work towards a power-sharing agreement. Pray for openness, commitment and cooperation.

Above picture: Apada transition camp on the outskirts of Aweil town. Southern Sudan. Santino Macham along with his extended family move from the shelter where they have been sleeping to another temporary home. They put all of their belongings onto a horse and cart.

Freezing temperatures, refugee camps and the Winter Crisis

Freezing temperatures, refugee camps and the Winter Crisis

‘But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.’ Job 36:15 (NIV)

As bitter cold sets in across refugee camps in the Middle East temperatures are unimaginably low. Refugee tents can protect from the conflict but they cannot keep out freezing temperatures. People are faced with harrowing situations in both Iraq and Syria.

As a relatively small organisation we are able to respond rapidly to emergencies, and because we work with churches on the ground we can deliver the love and care needed quickly and effectively.We always seek to reach the most vulnerable people,so that every cent you donate makes the biggest possible difference.

The incredible suffering in Iraq can make you feel helpless. Horrific violence has killed nearly 10,000 people and caused almost 2 million to run for their lives. For someone who has lost what matters most– their parent, child or friend and home – hope couldn’t feel further away.Yet that is exactly what Tearfund can bring in Jesus’ name.

Right now our team is working tirelessly, providing essential aid to thousands of vulnerable Iraqis. But as religious and ethnic minorities continue to face unspeakable brutality, our resources are being stretched to the limit – and with winter biting hard your gifts and prayers are vital. Night-time temperatures in Iraq and Syria are unimaginably cold at the moment.

  • In Iraq atrocities are happening daily. We must follow Jesus’ call to bring tangible support that will ease the suffering. Thanks to your support we have provided over 6,500 displaced Iraqis with items such as clothing, kitchen kits, food and hygiene supplies. But more are desperately needed.
  • The conflict in Syria has entered its fourth year and there is no end in sight to the misery for Syrians.3 million people have fled to neighbouring lands and 6.5 million people are displaced within Syria itself. An estimated 5,000 people are being killed each month. Tearfund is providing over 8,280 people with food parcels each month.
  • At the same, with West Africa’s deadly Ebola outbreak our resources are being stretched as never before. More than 8,200 people have already died. Tearfund has begun providing food, hygiene parcels and life saving awareness training. But much more is needed.

But never think that you can’t make a difference; every gift is a lifeline to the most vulnerable and every prayer is heard.

Your donation can save a life in Iraq and Syria but also further afield, as we work to prevent the pain and suffering caused by disease, hunger, trafficking, conflict and grinding poverty. With your help we, along with our church partners on the ground can help the most vulnerable children and their families escape the desperate situations they face.

€23 can buy a set of warm winter clothes for three Iraqi children
€46 can provide one family forced to flee with a month’s essential food and hygiene supplies
€117 can provide a stove, fuel and an emergency kitchen kit to a displaced family in Iraq
€140 can cover a month’s rent for a refugee family, providing a roof over their heads this winter
€187 could pay for three children who have been trafficked to be rescued with the help of local police and given safe shelter, counselling and support to begin to heal

Please join with us to bring hope where the need is greatest.
Please click here to donate to our work.

For an up to date prayer bulletin please click here.

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day

In Malawi, a desperately poor country in south east Africa, the primary causes of death for women of reproductive age are diseases related to AIDS, and complications associated with pregnancy and childbearing. Tearfund’s partners are bringing hope and practical help to women with HIV. Before Tearfund Ireland’s project in Malawi began, one in five children being born to HIV-infected mothers were starting their life with HIV – a death sentence at birth. And 4,600 women died every year due to pregnancy-related complications, with a third of these deaths attributed to HIV.

IMPACT stands for Improving Parent and Child Outcomes. Working with two local partner organisations in three marginalised districts of Malawi, IMPACT aims to halve the rate of HIV transmission from parent to child to 7%, through a network of church-based volunteers.

Above picture is baby Maureen born free from HIV. Her mother Dorothy previously lost a baby due to miscarriage and was able to receive psychological support through this project as well.

IMPACT is embraced by local health authorities, communities and churches. An innovative component of the programme is its ‘Mother Buddies’ scheme, mobilising HIV-positive women to support HIV women who are pregnant, alongside their husbands, by linking them to the nearest clinic.

It was hailed as a ‘best practise project’ in an independent evaluation. A recent article in The Guardian newspaper quotes one of the Mother Buddies as saying:

‘Since starting [the programme], all women have delivered HIV negative babies, which has contributed to reducing child mortality in this area. [The programme has] also helped to mobilise men to support their wives. The number of women dying in childbirth has also dropped.’ Fanny Luwemba, Sandi.

Alongside its support for IMPACT, Tearfund Ireland funds vocational training for vulnerable young people in an effort to address the shortage of opportunities for relevant further education, and the lack of opportunities to earn a living.

Key Outcomes:

  • The parent to child transmission rate has been reduced to 6%.
  • EAM’s Mother Buddies initiative supported 194 HIV-positive pregnant mothers and 160 pregnant couples with counselling, information on birth plans, good nutrition and the importance of specific Anti Retroviral drugs.
  • Within a six-month period, EAM tested 1,131 people in six mobile HIV testing and counselling campaigns in two districts – an increase of 293 people compared to the previous year.
  • Within Mzimba district, 61% of pregnant women were accompanied to ante-natal clinics by their male partners.
  • Marriage counselling and training on parent-to-child transmission reached more than 6,000 people.
  • Vocational training in carpentry and tailoring is delivered to 20 direct beneficiaries leading to an externally certified qualification.

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