A new start…

Kaouthar has that kind of energy that sparks through her eyes.

Even though norwegian is a newly adopted language, she speaks in a light hearted mannor and almost fluently. But when you ask her about it, its obvious that she still feels a bit shy. She is 20 years old, from Damascus, Syria.

She was able to finish one year at the University in Damascus, before there was no choice but to flee.

When we started talking about her life before beeing forced to leave Syria she choked a bit. So I reasured her that she can choose what she wants to share. With a firm voice she told me, “It is important that people know”.

“They need to understand how awful it is, and how desperate we are to get a new start, to be a part of a community, work and take care of our family.”

The boat ride “only” lasted nine hours, some say she was lucky. But the color blue is now only a vivid picture of the boat ride fleeing from Libya to Italy. She was terrified.

“I was so lucky to finally reach Norway and be brought to Flekkefjord, a tiny village that felt like the middle of nowhere. I have lived in Norway for two years and six months, I am really enjoying it. But when I arrived in Norway I had to wait nine months for my asylum application to be approved. During this time we had to move to again and again, and it was so difficult. I was not allowed to do anything. I got very depressed, and felt like I didn’t matter anymore, that I had nothing to contribute to the world. I lost all my confidence. After five months time I just made a decision, I need to learn norwegian. I can’t just wait…

So I began learning Norwegian from Youtube videos. It was a lot of fun, but it was very challenging to understand the different accents. Especially since we had to change location, the accent kept on changing. I am so grateful that we have ended up in Tonsberg. Oslo was way to big and busy, it felt overwhelming.

When I got my asylum I had to do a norwegian course, and then start high school in Norway. But everything was so different from what I learned online. It felt like I had wasted time, that I had lost 3 years of my life”. She stops, and is quiet for a second. “But it was also good, as I have learned alot, the schools here in Norway are very different from what I was used to. I want the best grades.”

I am just so shy to talk, and especially at school. I know that I sound different than everyone else. Its hard to make friends.

My motivation is to be an inspiration for other refugees. I want to be viewed as hard-working and resourceful. A part of the society that I live in.

I love to challenge myself, as we have all obstacles in life, but I think it is very important that we don’t see our limitations, we just have to work at it. I have applied for so many jobs, no one said yes. So I worked for free until I met Kjersti at With.” With is a bakery and Coffee shop in the heart of Tonsberg. “She asked if I just wanted to get my work approval or a job. I said job!” Her smile is now as wide as her face.” I couldnt belive my ears. If I work hard I get the results that I want”.

I love that Diwala gives refugees an opportunity to showcase and use their skillset. I want to contribute, whatever I can do, I will do it.

We fell in love with Kaouthar’s drive and passion during this interview. Which is why she is our first Diwala Ambassador and a part of building the Diwala Ambassador Program.

We belive Diwala must be built from the ground up, in constant collaboration and iteration with the people we design for.

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