I Had to Start Over as a Teenage Refugee: A 10th Grader’s Story


Alya* was born in Iraq and lived there happily until the fall of 2016, when her family was forced to flee to Jordan. Her father was a teacher, and Alya was studying English. In their hasty escape, they weren’t able to bring any of her school records with them, and without them, Alya’s hopes of continuing her education were dim. But a nearby Nazarene school allowed her to enroll for her 10th grade year, which is the school’s final grade. Despite the fact that she was beginning a new school in a new country and had left almost everything behind, the kindness and instruction she received from the school enabled her to graduate this past spring.

“When I first came to the Nazarene school, it was not under the best circumstances due to the fact that I had to leave not only my home, but also my entire past life,” Alya said in her graduation speech.

“I was amazed by the way I was accepted and received with open arms,” she added. “I was overwhelmed by the compassion and kindness shown to me when I needed the most.”

She gave this advice to other students at the school: “My friends, always try to do your best and never give up, especially when you face challenges on your journey or [in] making your dreams come true. Always remember, when the Lord is your Shepherd, you shall never be in want.”

Alya could have easily become one of the millions of children living as refugees who miss out on school—and all the opportunities for success in life that education affords. But she didn’t. That’s because a Nazarene school opened its doors, and her teachers and classmates opened their hearts.

Alya is just one child out of 28 million who have been uprooted by conflict. All over the world, children are forcibly displaced from home because of battles they didn’t choose. But even a small thing can make a big difference. For Alya, that was the ability to attend school.

This year’s Christmas Project will provide for the basic needs of displaced children in our world. To help a vulnerable child, visit ncm.org/Christmas.

*Children’s names are changed for their protection.