Coming on the back of of anti-racism demonstrations and a week dominated by statues being pulled down, disturbing counter demonstrations and calls for the renaming of streets named after slave traders, we flip the coin and present to you a positive, uplifting story about how East Ayrshire Council has benefited from the arrival of refugees, and one in particular.
There is no place for racism in East Ayrshire. Here we pride ourselves on having the best people for the job, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, creed, colour or religion. With that in mind, this week we tell the story of Apprentice Electrician, Jamal Alosh.
Here is Wendy Johnstone, Housing Registration Manager, to help set the scene.
“East Ayrshire Refugee Re-settlement Team works closely with Cosla and the Home Office to welcome and support refugee families to re-settle within our communities. Colleagues from across the Council are currently working with and supporting 12 families who have resettled here over the last 5 years.
“We provide a wide range of services such as housing and language support, links to health services, Department of Work and Pensions and many other agencies. We also work closely with colleagues in Education who support our refugee children from nursery onwards.
Working with Jamal
“Jamal and his family were one of the first refugee families welcomed here in East Ayrshire in December 2015. They have been a pleasure to work with and they have all worked tirelessly to become part of our community.
“Jamal is always willing to try new things to improve his self-learning and studied English with the support of our ESOL team and Community Groups going on to continue his learning at Ayrshire College, further gaining a place on the Electrical Engineering Course, which then gave him the opportunity to apply successfully for the Adult Apprenticeship within HAS.
“Jamal and his family have been involved with several local events where they have always been willing to help including volunteering at the local foodbank and supporting other refugee families when they have arrived. We are so very proud of Jamal and his family’s achievements and wish them every success in the future.”
Now let’s hear from the man himself
“My name is Jamal Alosh, I was born in Syria in a beautiful village called Zabadani where I worked as an electrician. In Syria you don’t need a certificate to become a tradesman, all you need is experience and a good reputation. I had a good business going until the revolution and the subsequent war broke out. At that point I had lost it all. I then moved to Lebanon where jobs were scarce and education for my children was non-existent. But then a beam of hope appeared!
“We were told by the UN that we were chosen by the British Government to be a part of their resettlement scheme. We were one of the first families to arrive to Scotland. And as we were first the infrastructure around resettling was kind of bare and we had to be self-reliant for a big part of it.
“That came with many challenges as my English was poor at the time, and my children had been out of school for two years. Also, the lifestyle was strikingly different from ours.
“However, we did not let that deter us from rebuilding our lives, and we worked hard. We all had to start with our English as it is the most essential skill in this country. Thankfully the Scottish people (and in part East Ayrshire Council) were very helpful and supportive throughout our journey. East Ayrshire Council even provided us with ESOL lessons.
“Both of my children attend university now and my wife studies childcare at Ayrshire College. On my own front one of my major goals was to get back my old career.
“In August 2017 I took my first step towards achieving that goal and applied for Electrical Engineering at Ayrshire College. Even though it was very difficult to go back to studying in foreign language, also having left education for 30 years. I managed, with the help of the great and kind lecturers at the college, to get NC and HNC Electrical engineering certificate.
Help and support
“My efforts were recognised as on December 2018. While I was studying HNC I got an opportunity to work as a volunteer with East Ayrshire Council electrical team for one day weekly. It was a great experience and I was surrounded by people who were always keen to help me; my bosses, my supervisors, and my colleagues alike.
“In July 2019 I got three choices offered to me, go back to Ayrshire College to study HND Electrical Engineering, a potential opportunity for apprenticeship at Wabtec Rail Scotland Ltd, and apprenticeship as an Electrician with East Ayrshire Council. I chose East Ayrshire thanks to my previous positive experience with them.
“Now I have nearly finished my first year of apprenticeship with East Ayrshire Council and I could not be happier.
“I am looking forwards to completing my training and apprenticeship with them to finally become a useful member of my family, my society, and my new country.
“Finally, I want to thank everybody who helped me because without their help I couldn’t be in this situation. Everyone has always been nice to me and it has become something I take for granted by the nice and welcoming people of this country.
Lastly we hear from Jamal’s colleague, Sven Stockey, with whom he formed a bit of a ‘League of Nations’ bond after joining our team.
“Jamal seemed quiet to everyone at the beginning, because if everyone talks, with the Ayrshire accent, he has problems to understand, but if you’re like me, an immigrant myself, you know you get used to it. He is fun to work with, always in a good mood and ready to give 100% at his work.
“During this lockdown we stayed in contact, mostly him asking me things about his homework 🤣, trying to get me to do it for him.
“Working with Jamal in the Doon Valley is like working with a celebrity. A lot of people waving and greeting him. In the 4 years he’s been living here, he has made a lot of friends and done a lot for the community. Jamal is always helping people in the neighbourhood and also volunteered at a food bank. He also has got sisters in Syria he helps financial. That man has got a heart of gold.”
As you can see from the selfie taken by Sven, Jamal is relaxed in his lunch hour, appreciates the wonderful Scottish climate and fits right in! Thank you Jamal and Sven for all you contribute to our team!”