Miriam* left Afghanistan in the middle of the night. She stopped only to say goodbye to her family before she began a journey to an unknown future.
As she crossed the threshold of her childhood home one last time, she left behind everything that she knew and loved—including her family and her career as a writer and artist. Her mother threw water at her back as she departed, an age-old Afghan tradition to bless a long journey ahead.
As an educated woman, Miriam was a target for the Taliban. And there are many more women and men like her. She was just one of tens of thousands of Afghans who fled their homes and livelihoods this summer to escape government collapse and certain persecution under the Taliban regime.
Miriam fled with her colleagues to the Kabul airport where they stood for 24 hours, awaiting a safe escape. “We stood there without any toilet, without eating, without drinking,” she said. “I was very nervous.”
She didn’t want to leave Afghanistan. But, it was a choice she felt she had to make to protect herself and her family.
Miriam felt her hand was forced. She didn’t want to leave Afghanistan. But, it was a choice she felt she had to make to protect herself and her family.
Miriam and many others have been evacuated to Albania as they await resettlement in another country. Samaritan’s Purse is on the ground there, aiding displaced families who have sought refuge along the coastline. Our team of disaster response specialists is operating a medical clinic, distributing critical relief supplies, and facilitating six-week trauma healing courses to help evacuees process what they have endured.
After she arrived in Albania, Miriam struggled to find a purpose and hope as everything she knew and loved remained in Afghanistan. “I didn’t feel so comfortable, I wasn’t happy,” Miriam said. “I wanted to just go home and I wanted to see my mother.”
She craved a small tie to who she once was and the passions she once experienced. She longed for paper and a pencil to record her thoughts and feelings, for art supplies to paint her memories. Yet, she no longer had the money to spend on such things.
“There was no money to buy even a pencil,” Miriam said. “I just needed a pencil to write something, to draw something. I was painting in Kabul, I have so many pencils, colored pencils, my paper, my notebooks, different notebooks, different paper, white and colorful. I was an editor and a videographer, I was working for a newspaper, I was a person for myself and my country. But right now, I feel nothing at all, I have to start from zero.”
Miriam battled a sense of hopelessness and uselessness. That is, until she found an opportunity to translate for the Samaritan’s Purse trauma healing course.
Miriam helped translate and adapt our trauma care course—utilized in field offices around the world—to best reach her people in their heart language.
“We’ve really taken the time to contextualize [the training] to fit an Afghan setting and meet the heart need,” said Becky Threatt, a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) member and one of the course facilitators. “This is really a great venture for Samaritan’s Purse to go beyond that psychological first aid and help people progress through the trauma that they’ve been through, to gain some ways to process it and begin some of that healing.”
As Miriam translated the materials, the tools and practices that Samaritan’s Purse is sharing with Afghan families began to touch her heart as well.
“I was a part of handling this seminar, but, in reality, I feel like I was one of those people that learned something,” Miriam said. “We have hope, we have to talk, we have to go outside. A pain can be healed.”
“We have hope, we have to talk, we have to go outside. A pain can be healed.”
The six-week course provides a space for Afghan evacuees to share their stories and gain practical tools toward healing and forgiveness.
“The biggest thing is that [families] are unsettled, they have lost their home, they are afraid for what their families are going through that remain back in Afghanistan,” Becky said. “We want people to share what’s in their heart and to know that by talking and sharing and taking these steps, there is hope, because they had hopelessness before.”
Miriam’s world is brightening.
“I am a light to my family,” Miriam said. “I am a window for them, I am a light. I am some hope for them, because I am out [of the country].”
Slowly, Miriam found the courage and creativity to begin writing again—with a basic notebook and pencil that was gifted to her:
Tuesday, September 16, 2021:
I am writing with my new blue color pen and small notebook. I bought a pencil and eraser too. We are living near Tirana, Albania. It is near to the sea; the sea will join to Macedonia, Italy, and Greece.
Miriam plans to continue writing her experiences down so she can share with others. It will serve a testimony of all that she has endured and the people who helped her heal—including Samaritan’s Purse team members.
“I will remember them,” Miriam said of the Samaritan’s Purse team. “You are all people that are involved in my novel now because someday I will write about it.”
“You are all people that are involved in my novel now because someday I will write about it.”
Now, Miriam once again has water—this time the sea—at her back as a blessing while she begins a new journey toward healing.
“This is my story, the story of someone who goes far away from home,” Miriam said. “But this is not the end—this story will be continued. I have hope and I believe that someday everything is going to be all right.”
*Name changed for security.
Samaritan’s Purse is working through trusted, like-minded partners to provide relief and assistance to Afghan people affected by conflict and other crises.