"Are you legal?"
Rasha Alzrir is a One Young World Ambassador from Syria, she currently lives in Italy as a refugee.
A few years ago I was on the road to starting a career in banking and finance. I left Syria to pursue a Master’s degree and returned to build a life and future in my country. When the revolution started, I quickly realised that these plans would have to change.
When the revolution began in Syria, I faced a lot of setbacks that put my career and life on hold. Rather than being passive, I decided to be active and serve my country by helping people face their daily trauma and communicating their situations through the media. The actions I took were the most meaningful in my life. But I had to flee Syria as a result and took Political Asylum Refugee status in Italy.
As I started to settle in Italy, I knew that communication was a vital part of the integration process so I worked hard to master Italian within six months. To ensure winning my full battle, I circulated awareness based on my experience. I contacted journalists, within Italy and internationally, to enlighten others and help them avoid experiencing the same series of events. I also volunteered in refugee camps in Italy, teaching single Syrian mothers Italian, helping them adapt to their new environment and aiding their psychological wellbeing during their wait for refugee status.
The fact that I was able to make even the slightest change in the lives of fellow refugees gave me a thirst to become more active in society. This led me to Johannesburg and the One Young World summit in 2013. As a Syrian Ambassador, I spoke to 1,250 young leaders about Syrian refugees. It was an initiative where I was able to create some awareness about the real situation in Syria and basic ways people can empower refugees.
Rebuilding your life and pursuing your ambitions as a refugee is a struggle. The difficulties finding a job were unbearable. Coming from a good educational and professional background, I did not expect to be treated differently because I was a refugee. For example at one interview in Rome, the first question I was asked was: "Are you legal?"
My experience opened my eyes to the importance of the initiatives we could start to create awareness about refugees. Last year, I participated in the One Young World Summit 2013 as a suffering refugee. I wanted to create awareness of the events in Syria. This year, however, I am a person who overcame the challenges faced by refugees. I am proud to say that my experience changed my life and made me the person I am today.
As a young person, I ask you to take a moment and imagine your homeland is experiencing a crisis, forcing you and your family to flee (God forbid). What would you do? How would you feel? How would you restart your life? How hard is it going to be for you as a young refugee and how hard is it going to be for your family?
It could happen to any of us. Syria was once peaceful too.
It is very helpful to donate money, food and clothes but it is even better if you can start from the bottom and empower those in need. Teach them your language, help them find a job, help them integrate and communicate. If you dedicate an hour a day to teach or help guide a refugee mother, you would help her whole family. It’s a long-term investment that could enable them to rebuild their lives.
The impact of helping one refugee doesn’t just stop there. The impact becomes widespread. You won’t realise the change you could make until it happens.