SADA: Refugee stories of survival and resilience

by | 16th Jun 2022


Recently a new grim milestone was reached – there are now 100 million people around the world who are forcibly displaced. In spite of this growing crisis, there is still misinformation and a lack of understanding about what it means to lose your home and face an uncertain future.

Amna (formerly known as Refugee Trauma Initiative) supports the emotional wellbeing of refugees and other displaced communities, wherever they are in the world. We create safe, joyful spaces where people who have been affected by violence and forced displacement can come to terms with their experiences. We place an emphasis on storytelling because the stories that we tell shape the world that we live in.

When Amna began in 2016, we offered a simple thing – a safe space to be heard.

We put up a simple invitation outside a tent in several languages saying: ‘You are welcome to come in and talk to us’. Soon men, children and whole families began to join us and talk. There were stories of loss and horrible violence –and there were stories of courage and of the extraordinary human capacity to endure the worst of things and still come out capable of joy and compassion. Day after day people came and shared the reasons they had left their homes – the moment it had all become untenable. But very little on the news reflected the stories we were hearing. We realised that there was a disconnect.

That’s why we developed SADA. SADA – meaning voice in Farsi – is a storytelling site that shares stories about displacement – the loss, the grief, and the emotional impact of it all – from six people who have experienced it. Each of their stories is told uniquely using different creative tools, each developed collaboratively with the storytellers.

Through SADA, our refugee storytellers told their stories on their own terms. It’s a simple thing that we know is powerful as a healing tool, and in building that compassion and understanding towards displaced communities. People who have been forcibly displaced might have witnessed horrific scenes of
violence, they might have seen their homes destroyed and the separation of their communities and families. The impact of this doesn’t stop when a refugee reaches a place of relative safety and how we respond can determine whether a person’s traumatic responses are brief or take a lifetime to recover from.

Our work at Amna has shown us that kindness and acknowledgement of the pain and suffering of people in traumatic circumstances can go a long way in helping people feel less alone and more resilient. When we started to work on the SADA project we asked our storytellers a simple question: “what do you want people to understand about your experience?” All of the answers, while different, had things in common. Each of the storytellers wanted the audience to understand what they had lost in their journey for sanctuary and safety, the stress, anxiety and difficulty of it all
and that they were forced to seek refuge.

SADA is an invitation to listen to these stories and begin to understand the impossible choices refugees are forced to make and we’re honoured that our six storytellers chose to share their voices with us and with the world. We hope that through SADA and these stories, we can create a bridge for understanding, kindness and compassion – powerful tools that can alleviate the emotional suffering of war.

Read, watch and listen to the SADA stories to learn more and donate to support our work.