“I was 15 years old when a bomb destroyed my family home in Syria. My father was badly wounded by shrapnel in his head and neck. This was in 2012, and we knew that we couldn’t stay where we were due to the war which was still raging. At first my family and I went to Damascus, where we remained for a couple of months with relatives. After this we fled to Jordan, where my two brothers had already gone a few months earlier, as they feared being arrested for not joining the army.

Once we arrived there, we registered with the UNHCR – the UN’s Refugee Agency - and after completing many assessments, we were finally told we would be coming to Northern Ireland.


When we arrived here in 2016, my family and I were brought to the Welcome Centre, where we were introduced to Gavin, who worked for Extern. He helped our family with everything and made me feel that there was hope and that we were safe.


Learning English was a major challenge for me, but Gavin linked me in with colleges and community groups so I could improve my language skills. This allowed me to become more independent, as the simple things like going to the shops and getting food I had found difficult.


When I first arrived in Northern Ireland, I was so scared and worried about the future. Now I am able to follow my dreams and go to university in Belfast. I have grown in confidence and am able to be independent. Extern’s staff have always been there for me, supporting me, advocating for my family.


They are always able to find solutions or alternatives to any challenges we face. In the future, I would like to volunteer – if I can help someone like Extern has helped me, I would be very happy.

Extern has played a big role in my family’s life. We are doing really well and love Northern Ireland. This is our home now.”


Sarah (22), Belfast,
Project: Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme