Life for children needs to be full of happiness and smiles. However, this is not always the case, as many offspring around the world face the not-so-happy side of life.

Like Maaria, a teenage girl who came to Cyprus from Egypt and had to face difficulties in her life. At the sweet age of nine, she came to Cyprus with her father to be with her siblings and to take care of her sister’s new-born baby. The separation from her father a few days later was the beginning of hard times for little Maaria.

The incidents of domestic violence led Maaria to leave the house and live with a foster family. However, problems for Maaria did not stop there. As Maaria was still not happy, she yet again had to move to a shelter for unaccompanied minors, under the legal guardianship of the Social Welfare Services of the Republic of Cyprus.

Living in a foreign country away from her parents, Maaria felt lonely. Despite her brother’s help, Maaria was missing her parents and wanted to return to Egypt. But she knew that she needed assistance from specialised staff to overcome this difficult situation in her life.

In these hard times for Maaria, she heard about IOM’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR) programme. During her counselling session at the Cyprus Information and Support Centre for Voluntary Returns, she expressed her desire to return to Egypt and reunite with her family.

The IOM Cyprus staff stood by this decision providing Maaria with psychological support, tracing her family and confirming the best interest of the child. In coordination with the Social Welfare Services of the Republic of Cyprus, the IOM office in Egypt, and the Embassy of Egypt in Cyprus, IOM Cyprus made the preparation possible for her, including identification of the female escort who would accompany her on her journey back home.

Since her return home, Maaria is now with her parents, living her life near friends and relatives. As for her future, she cannot stop dreaming of it: “I want to become a doctor and help people”.

In her aspirations for the future, IOM is standing by Maaria’s wishes after her return and provided her financial assistance in order to continue her education in a Greek school in Egypt, while she will continue receiving psychological support in order to heal the traumas of the past and carry on with her dreams.