Refugees give back to their new community

May 24, 2017

Syrian refugee family is grateful for the opportunity and warmth that greeted them in their host country

Mohammed Alsahani had a textile workshop in Damascus, Syria, where he and his son made curtains, mosaics and tiles. Then the war came to their doorstep and upended their lives. After a harrowing escape, Mohammed and his family are finally rebuilding their lives in Kiel, Germany, a city on the Baltic Sea. Even better, they’re helping their host community and using their textile skills again at a local sailmaking workshop.

The Alsahanis and their German friends and coworkers may not speak the same language, but they all value family and friends, hard work and giving back. Their story is a testament to compassion, generosity and the common good that unites refugees, host communities and USA for UNHCR donors.

With conflict raging in their home country, the Alsahanis escaped to Europe. To avoid being drawn into the fighting, Yousef fled alone when he was 18. A year later, Mohammed’s older son Ahmed followed. Mohammed then left with his wife Soozanne and his daughter Hanan. In 2015, the family was reunited.

Mohammed, a highly skilled craftsperson, made curtains in Damascus. Yousef grew up working alongside his father, learning the family business. Today, both men have found a way to adapt their trade, resume their lives and fill an unmet need in Kiel’s labor market.

They know we’re just human beings who need help,
that we just want to live without war.

Christian Lübbe is the CEO of Coastworxx, a company that repairs damaged sails and repurposes old sailcloth to create new sunshades, clothing and accessories. Having struggled to find suitably skilled and qualified employees, he was excited to learn that Mohammed and Yousef had a textile business in Syria. He hired them for a trial period. Both father and son quickly distinguished themselves with their skills and work ethic and soon become full-time staff members.

Curtain-maker Mohammed (left), 51, and his son Yousef have helped fulfill the demand for skilled labor in their new community at the sailmaking company Coastworxx near the German port of Kiel. Mohammed, who used to make curtains in Damascus, has adapted his skills to meet the demands of life on the Baltic coast. Coastworxx chief executive Christian Lübbe’s small workforce of nine now includes four asylum-seekers and refugees from Syria and Afghanistan. He is delighted to find so many enthusiastic and skilled textile workers among Kiel’s newest arrivals.

“Mohammed and I understand each other because he knows everything about the work. I just show him the designs and it works out.”

Christian also notes how much the Alsahanis appreciate this opportunity: “They are really grateful. They really know that Germany does a lot for them. What they want to do is work and give back.”

Curtain-maker Yousef (right), 23, and his father Mohammed have helped fulfill the demand for skilled labor in their new community at the sailmaking company Coastworxx near the German port of Kiel. Here he mounts a cover that he repaired onto a boat.

Yousef has come to consider Germany his second home. “It’s really amazing – so many German people have helped us. Everyone here knows what has happened in Syria. They know we’re just human beings who need help, that we just want to live without war.”

The Alsahanis are like most refugees and internally displaced people. They want a safe place to live and to raise their families. They want their children to have access to education, the chance to contribute to their communities and hope for a more peaceful future.

Here’s how you can help …

War and persecution have driven more people like the Alsahanis from their homes than at any time since UNHCR records began. Please don’t leave them behind. Save lives by becoming USA for UNHCR’s newest monthly donor. Join today.