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Refugees learning the language and enjoying their new life in Worcestershire

Mohamed and Mustafa pose at the West Midlands Safari Park in Bewdley. Published Wednesday, 2nd October 2019

Leaving worn-torn Syria for a better life elsewhere, the Khatib family arrived in Worcestershire in 2016.

With support from the Syrian Resettlement programme, the displaced family received guidance and assistance settling into the county. 

The programme, along with the County Council's Adult Learning Team, helps refugees develop skills and confidence and increase their chances of finding employment.

Mustafa (21) and Mohamad (24) Khatib arrived in Worcestershire with no knowledge of the English language and only a few months of work experience.

"It was very scary arriving here, we had no friends, and we didn't speak English, so how were we supposed to make friends and live here?" Mustafa said. "Luckily, the Adult Learning Team was there to help us and set us up on courses at college."

The Syrian Resettlement Programme is five years long and provides families with bespoke support and mentoring, ensuring they are fully integrated and immersed into community life in the county. 

"We wanted some part-time work to help us get better at speaking English, but also to earn some money." Mohamad says.

Mohamad and Mustafa attended an employment open day at West Midlands Safari Park and both were successfully inducted into roles within food and beverages. They have now completed two seasons there.

"English people speak very fast; it's hard to keep up sometimes! But we're learning, and being at the Safari Park is a good place to learn." Mustafa said.

"The best thing about working at the Safari Park is that it's a nice environment to be around. We've made some really good friends since working here." Mustafa explains.

Mohamad continues: "I'd actually say working at the Safari Park changed my life, I've made some best friends who I see outside of work and the experience of working means I can apply for more jobs now."

But the pair have aspirations beyond food and beverage; "I want to be a mechanic and have recently enrolled at my local college." says Mohamad. Mustafa plans to continue studying while working part time.

This summer, Mustafa received an award at the Festival of Learning from the Chief Executive of Worcestershire County Council. He was recognised for his progress through the Adult Learning Programme.

Both brothers have also completed and passed their theory and practical driving tests giving them more independence and flexibility over job choice.

Without the help of Worcestershire Libraries and Learning Service, Mustafa and Mohamad's time here may not have been as successful. Mustafa said; "It would have been much more difficult to move here without the County Council. The adult learning team has helped get us into college and find the right courses for us.

"The whole experience of being in the UK, working at the Safari Park and completing courses, has been very rewarding and a very positive experience." Mohamad says: "When we were in Lebanon before we came to the UK, it was bad. When people there found out we were from Syria, they automatically didn't like us. But here, people are very kind and very supportive." 

Councillor Lucy Hodgson, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Communities said: “It’s great that Mohamed and Mustafa have settled so well into life in Worcestershire, and I’m really proud of the part the County Council and in particular our Adult Learning team have played in this. The Syrian Resettlement programme has now welcomed 100 refugees into Worcestershire, and we remain grateful to the support provided by volunteer groups across the county who are helping families to become independent and self-reliant and be happy in their new lives.”