Sisters, Nadia and Aisha, are two of the Syrian refugees we are currently supporting in the UK through our Livelihoods programme. They attended our ‘Refugee Crisis: One Year On' event at the JW3 on Wednesday 21 September and movingly recounted their personal stories as well as thanking World Jewish Relief for its support in helping them rebuild their lives.
Nadia and Aisha captivated the audience with stories about their idyllic childhood growing up in Darayya, a suburb of Damascus. They described how when the shelling intensified and normal life became intolerable, they fled with their parents and siblings, leaving behind their professions, home and friends. The two sisters travelled to Lebanon, living in harrowing conditions in a refugee camp, before eventually being identified as vulnerable women by the UN and offered the opportunity to come to the UK as part of the government’s Syrian vulnerable person resettlement programme.
Now settled in Bradford, Nadia and Aisha are participants of World Jewish Relief’s livelihood programme which helps refugees gain qualifications and find meaningful and long-lasting employment. Nadia holds a degree from Damascus University and worked as a pharmacist in Syria - yet when she came to the UK she was told her most realistic prospect was to become a cleaner. With the help of the livelihood programme, she and her sister Aisha, a teacher, have secured work experience placements in a pharmacy and a school respectively, whilst also studying for professional qualifications and GCSEs.
Nadia and Aisha told the audience how grateful they are for the support and encouragement they have received from World Jewish Relief. Aisha explained that they have more opportunities because of the scheme and Nadia added, “They’ve not just given me financial support for my NVQ course, but they also support me emotionally. Helping me when I look for work, always telling me not to give up and not to lose hope.”
Also speaking at the event were Sir Erich Reich who arrived in the UK on the kindertransport and our humanitarian programmes Manager Mireille Flores who gave an overview of the work we have done with refugees in Greece and Turkey including providing key support for unaccompanied minors and vulnerable women. Mireille explained the charity has turned its focus to longer-term programmes including setting up a Women’s Support Centre near Gaziantep, Turkey, 30 km from the Syrian border. She said, “This is a communal space for women, the only one of its kind in the region. It’s a space for people to come and talk about their problems, access basic services and social support. The refugees can take cooking and craft lessons, as well as English, Turkish and German lessons, gaining valuable skills that will enable them to have better livelihood and employment opportunities.”