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This 21-Year-Old Refugee Is Making it Easier for Syrians to Readjust to Life in Scotland

For Dured Alhalabe, it wasn’t enough to settle comfortably into his new life in Scotland. The 21-year-old Syrian refugee also wanted to help others do the same.

Fleeing the city of Homs, Syria, after civil war devastated his home, Alhalabe and his family escaped to Jordan before ultimately settling in Inverurie, Scotland as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons’ Relocation Scheme in February of 2016, according to TK.

Before leaving Syria, Alhalabe says life in his hometown was peaceful and satisfying.

“I was a normal student at school and my life was normal," Alhalabe told BuzzFeed News. "I was a happy person, a good student, I had many friends, everything is fine, and I never expected to leave my home and city at any time, but all these changed after the war.”

All of that changed when clashes between Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s army and revolutionary groups forced his family into a Jordanian refugee camp, and eventually to Scotland.

"My studies stopped, most of my friends died, and my only job was to survive. Within two years I moved to several areas in Syria looking for safety. It was a difficult time because we didn't know if we go to sleep, will we wake up the next day or not," Alhalabe recounts.

In 2016 over 3,00 Syran refugees settled in the UK, with over 1,200 of them making Scotland their new home.

Read More: The Syrian refugee crisis in photos

While Alhalabe’s traumatic journey to arrive in Inverurie is amazing enough, it is the work he has engaged in on behalf of this refugee community since arriving that makes him a truly remarkable figure.

A recipient of the 2017 Young Scot Award for Community, Alhalabe works tirelessly to help other refugees assimilate in Scottish society successfully. He founded the Amal Project, a community group that organizes volunteers and events aimed at giving refugees and existing community members spaces to come together to better understand one another, according to the BuzzFeed profile.

“The Amal project’s main objectives are to help people with employment skills and to develop community projects that build on the skills, knowledge, and expertise of Syrian New Scots to work towards better integration for everyone,” Dured told the Scottish Refugee Council. “We have formed the Syrian job club in collaboration with the job centre and Aberdeenshire City Council to focus on helping Syrians in writing their CVs and learning about the various interviews techniques.”

The Amal Project takes a multidimensional approach to assimilation for the Syrian community. While helping to familiarize the new Scots with the ins and outs of the National Health Services, they also take them on trips to cultural landmarks, such as Loch Ness.

Read More: How Making Tabbouleh Is Helping Syrian Refugee Kids Adjust to Life in Canada

As the chairperson of the group, Alhalabe is a kind of spokesperson for the 70 or so Syrian refugees in his area. Ultimately he wants to see the group members feel at home in their new country, and a big part of that comes down to having a sense of agency within their communities, he said.

"There were many reasons to start the Amal Project, but the most important one is to prove that we can do things to help and we are an active element in our new society – and to get a voice in it, and I think that is what we are getting now,” Alhalabe said.

Winning the Young Scot Award for Community has greatly boosted the profile of Alhalabe and the Amal Project. The activist got shoutouts from local politicians and newspapers all over the region as soon as his name was called.

In typical fashion, Alhalabe was excited to win the award because he saw it as an opportunity to do even more good for those around him.

“This award will help me introduce more projects to improve integration in our area,” Alhalabe told the Inverurie Herald. “This award means the world to me and my new life.”