Two years ago, we made a short film about a Syrian refugee named Baraa who we had helped into employment with Timpson the cobblers.
Baraa's optimism, dedication and cheeky personality captured all of our hearts.
For Refugee Week 2020 we caught up with him to see how we was coping during Covid 19.
Baraa arrived in Coventry in 2014. He and his family had fled Syria after their home in Damascus was bombed and destroyed.
Baraa will never forget the horrors he witnessed. He says "It was really scary. Seeing people killed in front of you. I’ve seen it loads of times... You are 100% sure you are going to die".
His father told him "I don’t care about money. Money comes and goes, but if I lost one of my family, I can't get you back".
The family fled to Jordan where the UN put them on the vulnerable person's list due to Baraa's father's degenerative eye condition.
In the UK, Baraa tried to find employment but without qualifications he was getting nowhere. Then he joined World Jewish Relief's Specialist Training and Employment Programme (STEP) and with our partner Coventry City Council, we helped him improve his CV and interview skills and secured him a trainee opportunity at Timpson. There, Baraa went from strength to strength. Initially given a 16 week trial, he was soon offered a full time position and within 9 months he was made manager.
Now Baraa has been promoted again, to Mobile Manager, looking after a team of branch managers in the Midlands. He travels widely and enjoys helping other managers to excel.
When Covid-19 struck, the stores were initially closed and employees put on government furlough. While Baraa is grateful for the support, this also meant a financial hit as he was used to picking up extra shifts for the overtime.
Now back at work, Baraa says "We are social distancing and doing our best to keep safe. We’re wearing facemasks and gloves. We have hand sanitizer and it is all well organised".
He adds "I was quite nervous to start with but now it is nice to be back working and helping the customers and the community".
Baraa plans to stay at Timpson and work his way up the ladder. He tells us "I’ve been with them for over three years, they’re a really good company to work for".
Watch Baraa's story:
STEP is run by World Jewish Relief and delivered in partnership with Horton Housing Association, The Refugee Council, Coventry City Council, Business in the Community, The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network and the Stand Up and Be Counted Theatre Company.
Find out more about our refugee work and support our programmes