Hassan left Syria to begin a new life in Northern Ireland. When he arrived he couldn't speak English, but now he is studying at university and supporting vulnerable members of the community.
When Hassan Alkhawam, aged 24, and his family fled their home in Syria due to the war, they were given refugee status and rehomed in Northern Ireland in 2017. Since arriving in the country, Hassan has transformed his life with support from The Prince’s Trust. He is now studying Software Engineering at university, has been a key worker in Tesco during the pandemic and is helping vulnerable people from migrant and refugee backgrounds.
Before coming to Northern Ireland, Hassan’s father became ill and was no longer able to work, meaning Hassan had to leave full-time education and get a job to support the family. When he arrived, Hassan wanted to fulfil his dream of going to university but needed to take an English language course before he could apply.
At the time, Hassan didn’t have money to pay for the course. He heard about The Prince’s Trust from a friend and found the charity was able to cover the fees and support him as he prepared to return to education and look for work.
Through The Prince’s Trust, Hassan also took part in a Get into Retail programme with Tesco, which is a four-week training and mentoring scheme that gives young people the skills, experience and confidence they need to find a job. After completing the course, Hassan was offered a job in his local Tesco store just as the pandemic began.
As well as working part time and studying, Hassan was inspired by the support he was given and now volunteers his time to help others who have experienced challenges similar to those he faced. He is a founding member and voluntary Director of a local social enterprise, NI Hyatt, which help refugees and migrants in Northern Ireland to create social connections, gain access to learning opportunities and recognition for their skills and experience, so that they can more easily become integral members of their local community.
Some of the ways the organisation helps people is by holding advice clinics to answer questions they may have around issues such as housing and employment, as well as providing translation services and holding events which bring people together.
“I wanted to help others, just like I have been helped because I know how much of a difference it can make. Anything people might need help with, we make it happen.
“People are always so grateful for the support they get through NI Hyatt. Many tell us they wouldn’t have known where else to go to start getting help with their issues such as registering with a doctor or looking for work.”