The coronavirus pandemic has affected lives all around the globe.  However, with adversity comes the opportunity for altruism, compassion, and empathy.   

Meet Anushiya, Saleha, and Sajidah: inspiring refugees in Indonesia who have been giving back to the community throughout the pandemic.

Although COVID-19 has impacted all their lives in unique ways, they all share the need to help each other overcome their fears and persevere.


Anushiya, Refugee from Sri Lanka

“Surviving the pandemic is hard, but it’s even harder if you cannot rely on each other.  With all the lockdown measures and prevention protocols, everyone is coping differently” she started when telling IOM about her experiences during the year.”

“When the pandemic hit, I thought of how I could help others.  I did not have much money to give, but what I did have were sewing skills.  With that in mind, I decided to help and sew cloth masks.”

“I enjoyed learning about the process to make a three-ply cloth mask as much as I do sewing them.  I produced 250 masks in a very short time.”

Anushiya hopes that the perception about refugees’ ability to contribute back to the communities that host them will eventually change.

“Help doesn’t always revolve around money. I don’t have much money, but that doesn’t mean I cannot help people.  Through my skills I can do something big, the most important thing in this situation is how can help others in our daily lives, to see what abilities we have and to use them.”


Saleha, Refugee from Afghanistan

“My family and I need to strictly follow the COVID-19 health protocols because I have diabetes and my young son has severe asthma,” Saleha tells IOM in a recent conversation.

According to Saleha, refugees are more prone to stress, depression, and anxiety this year, and one of the ways to cope is through positive activities and mutual support.

“COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic affecting millions of people.  Having this in mind, I always tell myself and my friends that we need to adapt, and we need to be able to overcome the situation together,” she added. 

With determination to help her fellow refugees and the local community, Saleha’s network successfully produced more than 5,000 cloth masks at the onset of the pandemic.

“By sewing the cloth masks, I find my way to fight through this tough situation.  I also learned that even we don’t have much in terms of money, our work we can be helpful for others,” stated Saleha.

Saleha hopes that people read her story and are inspired to never give up.  


Sajidah, Rohingya refugee

Amidst the daily uncertainty and fear, Sajidah started to engage in gardening activities to channel her energy and to cope with the challenges of the pandemic.

“The pandemic drastically changed the dynamics of our lives.  But it also taught us to become more self-sufficient” she said.

Sajidah and her husband came to realize that dedicating their time to growing their own vegetables, could help them cope during the long periods of lockdown.     

“We grow chilies, tomatoes, eggplants, and more.  Our garden provides a lot for our family, and we work hard on it.  Our children are also enjoying being in the garden,” Sajidah added.

Feeling the benefits of the new activity in their lives, both Sajidah and her husband turn to their neighbours to share tips on how to grow their own vegetables.

“I tell them: ‘Let’s be more self-sustained and grow our own vegetables. We are all in this situation together, and we can all inspire one another while we overcome,” Sajidah concluded.

SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 5 - Gender Equality