Former Syrian refugee makes dream come true in AshfordPublished: 22/03/2021
When Ibrahim Awad, his wife and three children arrived in Ashford a few days before Christmas 2015 as part of the first cohort of arrivals in the Kent market town under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, he was determined to forge a new life for his family far away from his war-torn homeland.
Today Ibrahim’s dream has come true. In partnership with local businessman and entrepreneur Kalim Dogan, they have opened a grocery and Halal butchers to meet the needs of the Ashford community, converting a derelict shop at the town end of Beaver Road.
In Syria, Ibrahim worked as a highly skilled monumental stone mason on both historic building restorations and new buildings, so he has had to retrain before launching his business with friend and partner Kalim.
Ibrahim said: “Many people in Ashford wanted a new shop where they could buy foods not easily available unless you travel to London. I want to work hard to support my family but also provide a good service for others in the Ashford community, a place that welcomed me and my family.”
Anne Forbes BEM, Refugee Resettlement Co-ordinator at Ashford Borough Council, said: “Ibrahim’s incredible strength of character, ambition, indomitable good humour and sheer determination has brought his dream to reality.
“This makes me so incredibly proud, both of Ibrahim and of Ashford for providing the opportunity.”
Anne added: “From the moment I met him at Stansted Airport it was clear that Ibrahim had huge determination to create a new and successful life in Ashford. From day one he would spend hours walking round the town, familiarising himself with the area and getting to know the locals. He did not speak much English but found ways to communicate with people in the community.
“Ibrahim’s family settled well into their new home. The older children started school and amazed their teachers with their resilience and commitment to learning.
“He took any employment available and soon bought himself a car. Struck by the lack of Middle Eastern (and specifically Syrian) foods available locally it wasn’t long before he started driving back and forth to London wholesalers in order to supply familiar and comforting produce to all the resettled families and many other eager customers he had found in the Ashford area.
“Now, after phenomenal hard work and despite all the additional challenges that Covid has brought, Ibrahim has a little shop of beauty, packed full of culinary delights,” added Anne.