We left Syria because of the war. My daughter’s school was bombed and two of her friends were killed. After that, I took my daughters out of school and left Syria. We managed to get a visa for Iraq and travelled there by plane.
I am a graduate. I studied IT and business in Syria, but in Iraq I couldn’t use my skills. Where we lived in Iraq, people spoke Kurdish not Arabic, so there was a language barrier. I had to work out different ways to earn a living. I am a single mum so all of the responsibility for supporting my two girls was on my shoulders. I am a good cook – I survived in Iraq by cooking mixed Syrian and Iraqi cuisine and selling it to people. I also taught the Qur’an in a mosque.
But still I only earnt enough to feed ourselves and keep a roof over our heads. My daughter had to stop attending school because I couldn’t afford it. Not being able to give my daughter an education broke my heart. When my daughter used to see other students going to school, she would cry.
I wanted to give up sometimes, but I couldn’t. I had to keep fighting for the sakes of my daughters, and I trusted that God wouldn’t leave us alone. I believed that he would send someone to help.
When the man from the UN called me to say that we had been accepted to go to the UK, I burst into tears. I just fell to the floor. I said to him, ‘Please repeat what you said. Please, please repeat what you just said.’
I’d heard that the UK was one of the best countries in the world, a country where children get a good education. I couldn’t believe that we had been accepted.
The two years that we have been in Liverpool have been the best years of my life. It feels like a beginning – like my life has started again. It feels like everything was leading up to us coming here and becoming part of the UK and the community in Liverpool. Here, people have treated me like a human being.
The main challenge of settling in here was the language barrier. Everything else felt manageable, and that was because of the Community Sponsorship group. The group members would help me with different things. One of them would help me to organise health appointments, another would help me manage the benefits and so on. It has felt like we’re all one big family, with all the group members showing me how to do things step by step.
As I was travelling to the UK, I was thinking that I would need to buy clothes for the girls. But when I arrived here, the closets were already full of everything we needed. Shoes and clothes, everything was ready and waiting for us. When school started, the group took us to buy school uniforms.
The group wasn’t just helping us with the essentials. They took us out on trips – to castles, to restaurants, and to Wales! It never felt like they were doing this because they had to or because it was their job. It felt like we were all going out as friends and family, and it just made me so happy. I had to keep reminding myself: ‘This is my life now.’
The people in Liverpool are so kind. Our neighbour always checks in on us. If she doesn’t see me for three or four days, she’ll call me to ask if I’m okay!
I want to be able to give back to the people of Liverpool in some way. What I’d love to be able to do is study nursing and become a nurse. I am really focused on learning English now because that is the key to having a career and being able to give back.
For any refugee families worried about coming to the UK, I would say to them that the people are so nice and kind here that they don’t need to worry. I would advise any families to really focus on learning English. If you have the language skills, you can achieve what you want to achieve. Now I feel like my girls and I can achieve anything we put our minds to. We have a future again.