Mohamad Eid Morad and his family are from a town called Darayya, near the Syrian capital Damascus. The area has been under siege since 2012. Before the war, they lived a comfortable life. Mohamad worked as a contractor and the children went to school.
Then they were forced to flee.
They ended up in Lebanon where it was difficult for Mohamad and his wife Imane to find work. Their sons, Diaa and Ahmed, soon had to abandon their schooling. The family languished there for three years, unable to continue their lives.
The four of them, along with Mohamad’s mother Gazala, arrived in New Zealand as refugees in March 2016. “The people in New Zealand are wonderful,” says Imane, “they like to help and are very nice; they welcomed us, helped us with the house, and showed us how to enrol in school.” The family agrees that volunteers have made transitioning into life here much easier. They all feel settled and have started to live their lives again.
Imane enjoys cooking and lays out a table of delicious homemade Syrian treats – a sweet ricotta filled pancake called Atayef and some Ma’amoul biscuits, along with a pot of Turkish tea – while Mohamad talks about his hobbies. He’s a fan of bodybuilding and swimming. Mohamad says he’s even been invited to play a game of rugby in his local community. The offer’s been turned down; for now.
Their oldest son Diaa, 20, is a keen scientist and wants to study medicine. The 20-year-old is talented; he won a prestigious award called the Syrian Scientific Olympiad before the family was forced to flee.
While Diaa is certain about his future as a doctor, their youngest son, Ahmed, 16, is passionate about football and photography, two skills he’s been pursuing in New Zealand.
Life hasn’t been without its challenges though; language has been a huge barrier for the family. For many of them, English is their third language. Imane and Mohamad have struggled but are attending classes every day and are picking it up. Their children’s language skills are impressive. Ahmed is enrolled in the local high school and Diaa is hoping to finish Year 13 once he’s finished his English course.
It can also be difficult for Mohamad’s mother, Gazala, who is often left at home alone while the rest of the family are attend their lessons. Without a support network, it can be isolating for her. “It’s very lonely,” Gazala says nodding, “they all go off to school and I’m left here by myself.”
The family is looking ahead with positivity though. Both parents are hoping they’ll grasp the English language and live peacefully in New Zealand. Imane is also certain both her sons will become successful doctors.
Mohamad, who owned a farm in Syria, has started a vegetable garden that he and his mother tend to on a daily basis. He proudly shows off the growing produce while explaining their plans for the garden’s future.
Their vision for the garden includes bountiful olive trees in the back, a bed of beautiful flowers around the side, and a canopy of grapes over the front. It’s easy to see that this house has become a home for the family. They say they feel much more emotionally settled now and are looking forward to what the future holds.
Story and pictures: New Zealand Red Cross