A new journey

“Finally, it is now my chance to start a new life!” Malik, a graduate from our digital marketing course and an intern with Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Asia Pacific, said excitedly. Elaine was happy to see Malik looking so relaxed when she caught up with him on Zoom before he resettled to Australia. Somehow, the excitement of being resettled had erased 10 years’ worth of tension from his face.

Growing up and living in Pakistan was tough for Malik, as he had to constantly hide his religious beliefs for fear of persecution. Together with his wife and child, he eventually left his country in March 2014 as he was determined that his children should not have to endure a similar life of insecurity.

When he first arrived in Thailand, life was more comfortable compared to Pakistan. There was religious freedom, and no threats to his family. But it was no bed of roses. He was unable to find work to support his family and struggled to afford the daily living expenses. He also developed kidney problems and needed help with medical bills. Fortunately, JRS Thailand supported some of his medical bills when he approached them for assistance.

During this dark and desperate period in his life, he heard about the digital marketing course put together by JRS and Make the Change. Having always been passionate about digital skills — he was already an avid follower of YouTube tutorials on graphic design — he could hardly contain his excitement. In this three-month course, he learnt graphic design, Photoshop, content writing, social media, how to get traffic on the website and much more.

After the course ended, Malik was keen to further hone his skills in graphic design, hoping to make it his profession. He was thrilled to be given a three-month internship opportunity with Ray of Hope, a Singapore-based charity where he learnt about content creation, ways to brainstorm ideas, and how to find inspiration from one’s surroundings. He was especially grateful for his mentors who were always encouraging him and assigning him challenging tasks so he could constantly improve.

Sample of Malik's design work.

A subsequent internship was with JRS Asia Pacific in Bangkok, where he assisted in creating material for social media posts. During the occasions when he went to the office, he enjoyed the chance to mingle with friendly colleagues who “laughed a lot, worked hard and helped each other”. He appreciated that his mentor, Git, the Regional Advocacy and Communications Officer, was patient with him, even though he was always asking her “a lot, I mean really a lot, of questions!” Git was impressed by his positive attitude, “In every task that he did, I can feel he put his heart into it. I can see his enthusiasm and committed way of working”. After just a month and a half into that internship, Malik received news that he would be resettled to Australia.

As Malik contemplated his 9 years of living in Thailand as a refugee, he reflected: “In the beginning I had very few useful skills to provide for myself and my family. I was always asking – who could teach me? How can I survive? Then I heard about the digital course and the internship programme. It is difficult to explain how much these opportunities mean to me.”

“The course was powerful – it gave me knowledge. But more than just that…I had been feeling so hopeless, feeling like I was losing myself. As a refugee, it was difficult to see where my life was heading. But the training and internship gave me a way to discover my own skills; it made me dare to think of a better future!”

Malik expressed his sincere thanks to all in the JRS and Make the Change teams who worked hard to run the digital education programme. He appealed to us, “Please continue the course so that more from the refugee community can benefit!” In return, I asked him to consider engaging refugees in future when he sets up his own graphic design business. “Why not?!” Malik readily replied. Once he is more settled, he hopes to reconnect with JRS and explore ways to contribute. We ended our chat on that heart-warming note.

All of us at JRS sincerely wish Malik all the best as he embarks on what he calls, “a new journey with new hope”.