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By Kbora Ali
3 June 2022

The experience of leaving everything behind was quite daunting.

My family first fled Afghanistan when I was two-years-old.  

I was nine when we arrived in Australia in 2007 and we were finally reunited with our father. He had bravely made his way to Indonesia and then travelled by boat to reach Australia years earlier. 

Adjusting to our new life required tremendous amounts of resilience – individually and as a family. You literally start from zero with every aspect including learning English, trying to fit in, finding a job or education. 

These are common obstacle all refugees face as they navigate to finding a safer home.  

For myself personally, the initial years in Australia were spent juggling learning and trying to excel to prove to myself, that despite being a refugee, I could get that job or good grades at school. 

Children with UNICEF backpacks
Young girls in Afghanistan smile with their UNICEF-provided school bags. Many of these children said they don’t have school supplies in their communities.
© UNICEF/UN0436389/Karimi

"That support so many years ago ignited a beautiful spark of giving in me."

Kbora, UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador

My sibling and I first learnt about UNICEF when we were handed school supplies in Pakistan. It was a testimony that people cared about us.  

Young children not only want but need love and attention, and that is exactly what getting those school supplies from UNICEF meant for us. 

Teams like the ones I met that day in Pakistan, are always there for children, acting quickly, whenever and wherever needed.

That support so many years ago ignited a beautiful spark of giving in me. Being at the receiving end at such a young age; we knew what a simple act of giving can do. Individually and as a family we make sure to give those who need it most. 

One day when I was at high school in Adelaide a female solider from the Australian Army gave a careers talk. From that moment on I knew this is what I wanted to do.  

No other Afghan girl has joined the Australian Army before. My older sister Razia dreamed of joining, but our parents were shocked and worried, so she pursed psychology instead.  

But I was determined. I didn’t tell anyone expect Razia about my application. She helped me fill out the forms and drove me to interviews and tests.  

At 18, I was accepted to join the Australian Army as a Gap Year recruit.  

Kbora and her family
Right, Kbora with her mother, father and niece Erum. Today, Kbora is a UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador, raising the voices of children and young people.
© Supplied/Jessica Clark

Australia welcomed my family and many others with open arms and as a citizen I wanted to do something to give back. Through my service in Australian Defence Force, I am proudly doing exactly that

During the pandemic, I worked an interpreter to help the Hazara community evacuated from Afghanistan in 2021.

It was the most rewarding experience – it was emotionally demanding and positively impactful. I enjoyed speaking in Hazaragi because I instantly connected with every person I was speaking to.

The most memorable part was welcoming the young children, as it brought back vivid memories of when I arrived in Australia.

If my father hadn't taken the risk to refuge to Australia, I would have been in Afghanistan still, without any of the basic human rights to education and proper nutrition.

Two people in unicef shirts standing outdoors
Kbora with fellow South Australian and UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador Daniel, 16.
© UNICEF Australia/Moran/2022

Today, I have so many opportunities, such as the UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador program. As a refugee, I have witnessed the lack of opportunities and lack of awareness when it comes to children’s rights.

This role for me is a unique opportunity with the great responsibility of elevating voices of children and young people in Australia on issues that truly matter to them.

It is only through being an Ambassador that we have this platform to reach decision makers and that, for me and my cohorts, is how change begins.

I want to continue giving back in everything I do with UNICEF Australia and with our Australian Defence Force.

My vision for the future is to simply help as many children as possible because I truly know what an act of giving hope can do for a child. 

Kbora, 24, lives and works in Canberra with the Australia Defence Force. She is currently one of 12 UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors working to advocate for the rights of children and young people in Australia.

When conflict or disaster strikes, UNICEF can deliver life-saving help to children in just 48 hours to more than 190 countries.