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‘How training in digital and English-language skills changed my life’

Yasser, a Syrian refugee in Iraq recalls his journey from longing to study to becoming a web designer through WFP's EMPACT scheme
Click to watch Yasser's Story


Hi, I'm Yasser. I'm 23, from Damascus, Syria


I left Syria in 2011 — because of the war — and moved to Lebanon. I stayed in Lebanon with my family for a year. I started working as a butcher. Then I tried to study, but it was difficult for me because I had to support my family.


So I quit studying. I left the butcher's and started working in a market, as a customer assistant. Then I moved to a poultry shop, then back to the butcher's. After that, we had to move to Cairo. Life in Egypt was anything but easy. None of us could work at that time.


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Yasser's training meant he would no longer have to sell balloons in the street. Photo: WFP/Photo Library


Then we decided to move again, to Iraq. We were not very lucky when we came to Iraq because, suddenly, ISIL came and the situation became more difficult. I tried going back to school, but again, I had to help my father, to support my family.


The next job I had was working in a concrete-block factory in Iraq. After a month, the factory shut down, and I lost my job. It was winter and cold, with no job opportunities.


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His English-language skills come in handy dealing with international clients. Photo: WFP/Mohammed Abbas


At that time I met my friend, who invited me to sell balloons at traffic lights. Suddenly, this was the best job I'd had so far. It was enough to pay the rent for my house. But it had a downside, which was: this job was very embarrassing.


Later, I got an opportunity to work in a kitchen as a butcher again and I developed my skills enough to end up as a general chef. One day, there was an announcement in the refugee camp, about EMPACT courses in the American University of Sulaymaniyah. Immediately, I applied, and I got accepted.


I started learning English and social-media marketing. I was the first in all my class. Then I graduated to the advanced stage of the programme, and I started learning how to design a website, on WordPress.


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For Yasser, standing, working for a digital agency is a dream come true. Photo: WFP/Mohammed Abbas


Even before I graduated, I got my first professional job, at Click digital agency, as a web designer and social media specialist. EMPACT continued to support me, by providing a laptop for my first job.


Now, after more than one year, I am an Account Executive, team leader and quality controller at Click. I have a large base of clients, in and outside Iraq.


I am really lucky to have had the chance to attend this amazing programme, and I really encourage anyone with a dream to attend it.


EMPACT — Empowerment in Action! — is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)