Meet Ahmad, Syrian refugee turned northern Maths whiz
Ahmad from Syria believes that the only way to do gardening is barefoot.
He said: “When you are in the garden and you deal with the plants, that makes you very happy. You can get rid of all the negative feelings, especially if you try to work without shoes in your garden. Every negative feeling will go out from your body. You will feel very good and very healthy after that.”
The 42-year-old father-of-three is currently studying for a Mathematics degree at the University of Central Lancashire, but his first degree was Agricultural Engineering. He worked in that area for seven years in Syria, before having to flee.
He said: “Syria is very fertile. You can grow a lot of things in Syria: wheat, grapes, tomato, potato, cucumber, melon, everything. Sometimes the watermelon is huge, up to maybe 15kg. And the water in my country, from the earth, is very fresh water. You don’t need to clean it. You can drink straight away from the earth, from the spring, from the mountains. It is amazing, to be honest. Our country is like a heaven, but you know the war has made it like a hell.”
Ahmad was evacuated from Jordan in 2016, where he had taken his family for safety. During the war, he lost a number if family members, including his niece, who was shot by a sniper while carrying her baby in the street.
He said: “I can’t describe the situation in Syria, because if you look for the words, you can’t find words in any dictionary to describe what is happening in Syria.
“The war kills everything in Syria. It kills your dreams, kills your memories, kills your family. Life is very difficult in Syria. When you have children, you need to do everything you can just to get something good for your children.”
A new life
Ahmad and his wife and three children are one of eight or nine Syrian families that have settled in Blackpool.
He said: “Everything here is very good. I have a safe place, a house. I can be sure about my children’s future. That’s very important for me. This country lets me dream again, lets me have good memories for the future.
“I’m very proud of my children. My son is very good in school. His teachers love him. He has a lot of friends. He is very helpful, helps the teachers and other students.
“And my daughter is very happy. All the time, she’s asking me, ‘When can we go to school?’ I keep saying, ‘Next month, next month’. And the little girl as well, all the time, she is saying to me, ‘Next year I will go to school.’
“They speak with Blackpool accents. Like native speakers! I am very happy about that. The little girl, sometimes I can’t understand her, because she speaks English fluently. They talk English better than me and her Mum. Sometimes I ask them to teach me.”
Learning a new language
Ahmad will take the final first-year exam of his Maths degree on Thursday and is trying to study hard with his children around him during lockdown. He said: “All the time, the children are playing, on computers, sometimes they play outside, inside the house, in the background.
“But, I’m very busy because I have a lot of exams. I work very hard. Because I’m not a native speaker, I have some problems, but my Maths is strong, so I do all my best. I need to work hard to do well, but I am confident. Mathematics is like a new language, but a lovely language, to be honest.”
Ahmad has made friends with his classmates at University, many of whom are half his age.
He said: “I don’t feel like there is a difference between my age and their age. I deal with them like friends, like brothers, like sisters, like a new family. I’ve told some of them my story and they are sad. We are also very sad about what’s happening in Syria. We have family in Syria, and we are worried about them all the time. But you can’t stop in place and just cry about what’s happening in the past. You need to go forward.
“Now, I’m 42 years old. This age doesn’t stop me learning or to go to university. Sometimes age stops people dreaming, stops people to get educated. I’m very, very, very happy to get this chance. I’m very lucky as well.
“I believe that it’s only when you die that you stop fighting. Don’t give up. Don’t listen to negative people. Just listen to your mind. Just listen for signs of life, and go forward.”
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