The boy was 15 years old when I first saw him in one of the many refugee reception centers in our country. Fighting with many emotions, far too young to be alone here, far too young to struggle with so many questions, with so much sadness, so much lack …
Mum, dad and lots of little sisters who were left behind in their home country. But there was still contact. Occasionally he still heard their voices on the phone, and even though the lack was not diminished, it was still a bright spot at the time that he was not aware that he would lose in a moment.
The telephone remained dead.
One day a terrible drama happened in his family and after a phone call with his mom he was left unsettled. He collapsed completely. Certainly when shortly afterwards it became completely impossible to make contact with his family. The telephone remained dead.
I knew him from the many visits to the center where some of my boys also stayed. He then had another guardian, but due to circumstances I became his guardian shortly afterwards. At that time he was very happy. He really “wanted” me as a guardian and now his wish had come true. However, I could not prevent his grief from missing his family, and in particular the uncertainty as to whether they were doing well, whether something bad had happened to them…. took the upper hand.
Shortly after the contact with the family was broken, we made an appointment at The Red Cross in Mechelen. The “Restoring Family Links” service, the former “Tracing”, works there to bring families back in contact with each other because of war, natural disasters and other catastrophes. Together we wrote a letter to his parents hoping to be able to restore contact.
On the way back from his first interview he already asked when his second interview would take place … impatient to be able to continue, especially, to be able to leave the reception center.
We were told that it could take a very long time and it is not always certain that there will be an answer … The region where to look for was also a “No Go zone” at that time. It would therefore require the necessary patience with a particularly small chance of success. We were not allowed to leave any chance unused, so from now on the wait was…
In the meantime, the boy slipped more and more. School had become taboo, he didn’t want that anymore and he sought refuge in alcohol. Alcohol, just all together, no matter what, as long as it could only somewhat remedy the emotional pain. He also began to cut himself. The conversations with the psychosocial assistant in the center sometimes helped a bit, my visits also helped him well, just like every step in his asylum procedure. On the way back from his first interview, he already asked when his second interview would take place…. impatient to be able to continue, especially, to be able to leave the reception center. We repeatedly suggested professional help for what he invariably refused. it remained a bumpy track.
When he finally received subsidiary protection in our country, he moved from the center to a local relief initiative of the OCMW, a LOI.
Positive note is that he is a hard worker but I would have liked to have seen him with a diploma and with a better knowledge of Dutch.
Initially he thought this was OK, he was also taken care of there by three super-fine and very involved counselors. It soon became clear, however, that this too was short-lived and would become a difficult process with outbursts of anger, excessive behavior, refusing to go to school, refusing to get up…. and especially a lot of sadness and lack. One lump of misery. He eventually turned 18, went to live alone and started working. Positive note is that he is a hard worker but I would have liked to have seen him with a diploma and with a better knowledge of Dutch.
And although I have not been his guardian since he was 18, I occasionally visit him again in the restaurant where he works or I send him a short message via Messenger. The boy is very proud of the work he does but still deeply unhappy about the lack of his family.
March 22 a phone call came from The Red Cross. Usually this is to hear whether a certain file still needs to be opened, or whether we already have news. Now it was different. A letter had arrived from the boy’s father. An answer to the letter we sent so long ago … an answer to which the father told them that he was doing well and that he thought a lot about his son, a letter that was heart-warming, a letter mentioning a telephone number in Afghanistan … the his father’s number … I couldn’t thank the lady on the phone enough and yet I couldn’t put it down quickly enough … after all, I had to call the boy. I was just about to get in the car and go and bring the news personally, but why would I lose nearly two hours? There had been a long wait,
So many emotions on the phone, from disbelief to enormous joy and tears and back joy … he started calling his dad.
Nowruz has really become a special party for this boy. He has received the best New Year’s gift he could ever dream of.
When he called me back later in the evening, the sun echoed in his voice. The same voice that I know so well with which I have spent so many hours discussing, the voice that wept me and the whole world with me … but now so very happy, so much joy.
March 21, spring started, it was also the Afghan New Year. Nowruz has really become a special party for this boy this year. He has received the best New Year’s gift he could ever dream of. I also think of the parents. They have not heard from their son for three and a half years and suddenly the uncertainty is gone. And although there are thousands of miles between them, it is again possible to talk to each other, to hear the warmth and love in each other’s voices. I think back to the moment we wrote the letter, so long ago in the summer of 2016.
Mid December last year, the parents wrote their letter in response, the letter that their son brought back.
I hope all of them are doing well.