The Positive People project is committed to supporting people to achieve their goals and overcome any barriers that may be in their way. A couple that have faced more barriers than most in their young lifetime is Khaled and Dalal, who joined the project at the end of 2018.

Khaled and Dalal are refugees from Syria. They were forced to flee their country when war threatened their lives and destroyed everything around them. To make matters worse, before they were able to leave, Dalal became seriously ill and Khaled’s only hope to help her was to raise funds to cover her medical bills. Despite their shocking circumstances, the couple were safely resettled in the UK in 2017 and now live happily with their two young daughters.

Khaled explained, “When we arrived here our support worker was searching for someone who could help us with building our skills. She found Positive People on the internet and then she made contact to refer us to them. We met with Positive People and we made a plan because we needed big help with our English and computer skills. Language is the key for everything. We also want to get our computer driving license [European Computer Driving License] so Angela referred us to a digital trainer to help. Positive People is helping so I can one day apply to university. They’ve been very good help since we first found out about them”.

In Syria, Khaled was studying History at university, but sadly had to abandon his studies to escape from the conflict that surrounded him and Dalal. Now they have found sanctuary again, Khaled dreams of going back to university and taking a degree so he can pursue a career and support his family. Angela, one of Positive People’s Change Coaches, is working with Khaled and Dalal to offer support so they can improve their skills.

To show their support, Positive People joined Khaled and Dalal at an International Celebration – an idea that Khaled and Dalal initiated and then organised with their community. Khaled held the event in June in Exeter. The event saw over 200 people join together to celebrate diversity. Khaled said: “International. Together. That is what this event means. This event is to give everyone a hug and to get everyone to hug. When I came to this country the people of Exeter welcomed me, and I want to bring peace to the community and I want to say thank you. Next year will be even bigger”.

Besides organising this incredible event, Khaled has thrown himself into an extensive amount of volunteer work. Through this, he has supported his local community and embedded himself in the English culture to improve his language, build relationships and offer a contribution. The volunteer work he has carried out includes:

  • Working at West Exe Nursery for 1.5 years supporting with the children’s and parents activities
  • Working with a group of friends to offer free food and drink for all in Exeter city
  • Working in reception at Exeter Community Centre
  • Visiting the Dove Café customers every week to help give affordable food and drink to those in need
  • Leading Freemoovement classes twice a week, providing free outdoor exercise to anyone who wants to join in
  • Leading Freewheelin’ classes, bringing people together to ride their bikes out and about in the local area, get fresh air, get fit and meet others
  • Supporting homeless people to bring them food and shelter
  • Working in Exeter Mosque and supporting with activities
  • And even helping out as a hairdresser!

From this impressive list, it is clear Khaled is dedicated to building positive foundations for him and his family in their new home. He said, “The most important message I want to get across to all refugees is: ‘Don’t stay at home’. They need to go out, meet with new people, learn the language from volunteering opportunities, go to events. If they don’t have money, there are lots of free events in Exeter they can go to. Staying in by yourself is bad for your mental health. When I went out to volunteer, that is when my English improved the most. It is good for me to volunteer because I give everything from the heart”.

It is no wonder that Angela expressed: “Khaled and Dalal are just so inspiring!”

With support from the Positive People project, Khaled and Dalal are currently undertaking an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) course to further improve their English. The support the couple receive from the project will help them to get closer to their goals and continue to integrate with their community. Over the next few months the couple will both receive training from one of Cosmic’s Digital Trainers, to build their confidence in using technology. This will enable them to develop important life skills such as creating a CV, sending an email, searching for work, applying for jobs and connecting digitally with others.

In the summer, Khaled and Dalal will be publishing a book that they wrote together, along with a collection of friends in London. Their story will be the first in the book, titled ‘Refugee Journey: Human Crossings’. This book will share their story in depth and give a real account of their lives in Syria, and their search for refuge. Be sure to look out for it on Amazon!

Positive People offers a lifeline to people who are not in work to build hope, confidence and skills. Positive People is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund.