Fedaa Dakak shares how forfutures helped him and his family build a new life in Cheshire after fleeing the war in Syria that destroyed their home
Fedaa was born in Syria in 1986, where he grew up with his parents, one brother and two sisters. He was taught to study hard and work hard for himself and his family.
During his school holidays, he would train as a barber and at the age of 18 ran his own barber shop for a year while he saved up to study accounting at university.
After graduating, Fedaa worked for eight years as an accountant, enjoying life as a husband and dad to his young son. But an uprising against President Assad’s regime in 2011 had escalated into civil war by 2012, making life there harder and harder.
One day Fedaa’s life was turned upside down when his home was destroyed. Left homeless, his family had no choice but to seek refuge elsewhere and arrived in Lebanon in 2012.
But life in Lebanon was still tough. Fedaa had been there for around five hard years working multiple jobs including in a warehouse and as a graphic designer when he received news he had been chosen for resettlement in the UK with his wife and by now two children, and his wife’s family.
The UK’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme was launched by the government in January 2014 after it became clear that the civil unrest was not easing. It identified people at most risk, including women and children, bringing them to the UK for refuge.
The resettlement process took another two years, and Fedaa and his family finally arrived in Cheshire in 2019.
Fedaa, now 37, said: “We didn’t know what to expect, we just knew everything would be completely different to what we had known before. So, we were surprised when we arrived at Manchester Airport and found the forfutures team waiting for us. They greeted us with a smile and took us by bus to our new home.
“And ever since that day, forfutures staff have been brilliant – very kind and friendly to us. Debra has become like another sister! They continued to visit us regularly, coming to our home for over three years to hear how we were settling in. They listened to us and understood what we were going through.
“Most importantly, they were great at helping us with whatever support we needed, whether that was with paperwork or meetings. Although I had a basic level of English from my studies at university, I was not confident speaking it, so they were a lifeline.”
Fedaa admits it was hard at first, with the language and way of life in the UK being so different. But forfutures helped him enrol on an English language course at Cheshire College in Chester. He studied English for a year and a half before he turned his attention to work.
Forfutures helped him find a course that would give him recognised certificates in barbering and after finishing college in Ellesmere Port, it wasn’t long before Fedaa was working again.
He said: “I’ve worked at a couple of different barbers now but feel really settled where I work now. My wife’s family were able to come over to the UK at the same time and my brother-in-law Mohammed works with us too which is really nice.”
His wife and two sons have also settled into their new life in the UK. “My kids are 14 and eight now and I’m so proud of how well they are doing. They’re great at English, enjoy school and have made lots of friends. My eldest son dreams of becoming an IT technician and is working hard towards that, it’s something that would not have been possible if we had not come here.”
Fedaa and his family were one of 21 Syrian families Cheshire West and Chester Council pledged to resettle under the Government funded Syrian Refugee resettlement programme.
Forfutures was appointed by the council to support the families to resettle into their new homes by working with key local partners.
The whole community really came together to help and welcome the new families by providing housing, healthcare, English lessons, employment support, clothing and household items and much more.
Forfutures worked closely with organisations including local landlords, the NHS, faith groups, the police and local charities to ensure the families could thrive in the Chester community.
Eileen Miller, Preventative Services Manager at forfutures, who has worked with Fedaa’s family and other refugee families to support them to secure training and employment opportunities, added:
“I first met Fedaa in 2019 when he and his family arrived in the UK. He is a kind generous man, and was someone others turned to for help. He would often call us for advice for friends, for example, how to get a UK driving license, and I’m sure this has carried on. It’s brilliant to see Fedaa and his family thriving now.”
Fedaa is career-minded and often thinks back to what he was taught as a child – to always improve himself and look for the best opportunities in life.
“I hope to go back to using my business skills one day. I really enjoyed working in an office environment as an accountant in Syria, and also got into graphic design when I was in Lebanon – it’s something I’d love to get into again.
“But before then, my wife is expecting another baby which is lovely news for us! I’m so grateful to forfutures for helping us get settled here and I look forward to our future.”