Diana Legacy Award winner Maya Ghazal arrived in the UK as a 15-year-old in 2015. She told Business Insider that despite her initial struggles and feelings of loneliness in her new home, she integrated well and is now a keen voluntary worker.
The following is a transcript of the video.
Maya Ghazal: My name is Maya Ghazal. I’m 18 years old and I’m from Damascus, Syria. I left Damascus when I was 15 years old, in 2015. When I first arrived in the UK, I arrived in Birmingham, and I stayed there for two years. There, I went to college, and I found that city was very diverse. It had many different nationalities from all around the world, speaking different languages and having different cultures. I wasn’t the only one who was new in the country, I wasn’t the only one that was struggling with English, and that really helped.
I met my friend, and she’s Lithuanian, and she is also like – we started improving our English together and we helped each other with Maths and we carried on with our engineering course, and up until this point, we still support each other.
In terms of people living in the UK, I’ve never faced someone who isn’t welcoming towards refugees.I was lucky enough that everyone who I faced and talked to – everyone was understanding. They knew our reasons of why we needed to leave. It wasn’t something that we chose to do, It wasn’t something that we wanted really, just to leave our country, everything we’ve built, our own language, and just to start from zero. Not many people want that. Not many people are capable of doing that. We’re really trying hard, and we don’t want to stay at home and not work and be lonely and unemployed.
I totally understand the haters, it’s just that maybe they don’t see the bigger picture – or maybe they do. Maybe they just don’t see our picture or from our angle or point of view. I’ve seen some not very nice comments around, either talking about my religion, or being racist or so, but I just don’t put myself down for them. These comments give me a push forward that I need to prove them wrong and I need to prove to them I’m someone that’s worthy – I could be as good as the person who wrote that comment could be.
For me, I really want to be an example, I do voluntary work and I really want to give something back to the community that welcomed me, to the place that put me into education, into university. Some people have really achieved a lot, and I really want to be considered as one of them later on.
More than 65 million people around the world have been forced to leave their homes to escape war, famine and climate change. To learn more about the plight of refugees across the world, Ai Weiwei’s film Human Flow is in UK cinemas now.