Aged just 21, Mohammad has moved from Lebanon to work for the NHS. When he first arrived in the UK, he wasn’t sure how Reset’s Neighbours for Newcomers volunteers would be able to support him. But then he turned to them in a moment of crisis.
I have always been ambitious for my career. Growing up, I wanted to study computer science, but as I approached my university applications, I started to think more realistically about how I could actually find work. As a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, I do not have many opportunities. Palestinians are not allowed to work in many jobs in Lebanon. Nursing is one of the few professions that Palestinians are allowed to enter, so it made sense for me to study nursing.
But even then I was concerned for my future. A lot of hospitals in Lebanon won’t employ Palestinian nurses and there’s a limit to how far you can progress in your career. I saw a lot of nurses in their 50s and 60s who weren’t going anywhere. I didn’t want to be like that. I want to grow as a nurse and develop my skills.
As soon as I heard about the opportunity to go and work for the NHS in the UK, I filled out the application.
I did have some worries. We all fear the unknown. I knew I would be far away from my friends and family for the first time. But I couldn’t let this hold me back.
I passed the interviews and I was assigned to a hospital in Bristol. I travelled to the UK with the other nurses on the programme and, after a month of training in Liverpool, we all went to our different hospitals. There were two other nurses on the programme who came with me to Bristol.
Before I got to Bristol, I knew that some local people had offered to help us out. When I arrived, they texted us to make sure we were settling in okay, and they were always offering for us to hang out together.
To be honest, I delayed meeting them because I was more focused on the hospital and my work. It was very busy. In the beginning, I didn’t really think I needed the volunteers.
When we met them for the first time, they showed us round the city and it was really nice. But I still didn’t see how they would make things easier for me. It was only when I had to move accommodation that I realised how important they were.
My friend and I were supposed to leave our old accommodation and move into our new accommodation at 9am on the same day. My friend also had to collect the keys and finalise the paperwork for the new accommodation at the same time, leaving me to move all the stuff.
I was in a big crisis. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a car, and we had to do this all quickly in between shifts at the hospital. I couldn’t do it on my own.
I contacted the group. They were the only people at the time who were available for us and who had offered to help us.
Every one of the volunteers who had a vehicle offered to help us move our stuff. Even the ones who didn’t have a vehicle offered to come and help take our stuff by bus. And even the ones who didn’t live close to us were messaging their friends who lived nearby to see if they could help!
They were so helpful and supportive. And I was so happy that they were there. They really helped us in this moment.
I realised then that it’s always good to have somebody to help you if you need anything. I am here all alone. I don’t have anybody. No family, no friends. So it’s good that there are people who are always ready to help. Everyone needs support sometimes.
I am settling into my work now. I’m working in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). It’s a high risk environment, but that’s why I picked it. I thought I would learn a lot very quickly.
I’m preparing to take my exams so that I can be a fully qualified nurse in the UK. I want to take the exams as quickly as possible. In Lebanon I’m already a nurse. I want to prove that I am also a nurse here.
I do not know yet whether I will stay in the UK forever or if I will go back to Lebanon. When I first came here, I said that I will return to Lebanon one day. But now I think to myself: maybe you are just saying this because you are not familiar with this city or this country. So maybe, with time, you will change your mind.
There aren’t any opportunities for me in Lebanon, but all my family and friends are there. I think that maybe the best thing would be if I’m able to live in the UK with my family one day.
But I am only 21. I cannot say what the future will bring.
Find out more about Neighbours for Newcomers.