A future for Amiri

In 2015, Amiri came from Afghanistan to Austria. He was only 14, on foot and all alone. Five years later, he has built a new life in Vienna, the capital of Austria.

Amiri lives in his own apartment and is in the process of getting his school diploma. He is also part of the Austrian national kickboxing team. Always by his side is his host mother, Sabine Kirschleder of Vienna. Through Sabine, Amiri found not only a supporter, but a family.

When Amiri speaks about his host mother, his eyes light up. The two met by chance shortly after Amiri’s arrival at the first reception centre in the city of Traiskirchen in Austria. Sabine was just dropping off some donations at the centre when she met Amiri and heard his story.

At that moment, she knew she wanted to help him build a life in Austria. After Amiri spent one year in a shared flat for adolescent refugees, the 15 year old found a new home with Sabine and her partner as SOS Children’s Villages host parents.

“Every child and young person deserves a chance. Amiri is my son, from my heart, and he will always be that,” she says.

Making the Austrian team

Amiri speaks as often as possible with his family in Afghanistan. His parents and siblings are happy that he found a second family in Vienna where he feels protected and receives support.

The 18 year old with the cheerful look is polite and seems relaxed and reserved. But in fact, he can hardly sit still. His real passion is kickboxing and he is very excited to have found a club in Vienna where he is challenged and can develop his skills. Over the past years, he has won many titles and victories. He recently became a member of the Austrian national kickboxing team and is preparing for the European championship. Almost every day, he rushes to the kickboxing studio after work to train.

What has shaped him most since his arrival in Austria? “The many different people and encounters. I enjoy my work, which is varied and never boring. I also meet lots of people by doing sports. There are athletes from all over the world at the championships and tournaments. This is great!”

Shortly after his 18th birthday, Amiri moved into a small apartment, which he decorated with his host mother. The period of care within the host family is officially over. However, their close bond remains. Over the weekend, they cook together and Sabine accompanies him to his kickboxing tournaments to cheer him on. “He will always be part of the family,” she says.

Work at the sewing machine

Together with Sabine, Amiri has implemented a wonderful project during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. As a child, Amiri worked as sewer in a bag factory in Kabul. He even taught Sabine how to sew.

Sabine started sewing colourful masks for people who cannot afford them. Amiri immediately volunteered to help. Since then, he sits at his sewing machine each day after finishing his online schooling and sports training. Together, Sabine and Amiri have made hundreds of masks which they give away for free or at cost.

“Since I arrived in Austria in 2015, I received so much help. I want to give something back,” says Amiri. “I sew so people do not have to use the disposable masks but beautiful colourful masks. Maybe this makes wearing a mask also more fun for children. We can do it people! Together we are strong.“

About the host family project

Children and young people who arrive without their parents in Austria do not just need a roof over their head but individual support and care. This works best in smaller, family-like environments.

So-called host families are a way to provide alternative care in such an environment. The project, which started in 2016, allows individuals to provide a home to unaccompanied youth. SOS Children’s Villages Austria prepares the families for their new responsibility, accompanies them jointly with the young people and oversees the host family project.

Adolescents who have arrived alone in Austria under difficult circumstances do not only find a place to stay in a family-like environment but most of all, they receive individualised care and support.

Experts at SOS Children’s Villages Austria prepare families for their role as host parents. They not only coordinate the placement in the host family, but accompany the families in the long term. They support them with ongoing advice, from questions on parenting to legal aspects of the asylum system.

The experience of the past years show that young refugees who live in a host family clearly have an advantage compared to others. They benefit from the integration into a local family and their circle of friends, extended family and activities. Even after the young people grow out of care, and the host family period ends, they stay in close contact with the families and sometimes continue to live with them and thus have a broad supporter network.