Education has been a stepping stone to a better life for Dana Al Samaan, who arrived in Australia in July last year.
“I was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. Syria is the country where I attended school and university for free, where I enjoyed safety and security, where I learned to communicate and respect others even when we have differences in religion, thought, doctrine or ideology,” she said.
“My mother worked as a school manager for the last 20 years and before that she was a teacher, I grew up in a family that appreciated education and encouraged us to not only complete high school and university, but also to undertake a master’s degree and PHD.”
Dana was in the process of completing her master’s in auditing when the war in Syria cut short her studies.
“I had an amazing family, good health. I was studying, first going to school then attending university. I had a job, good friends and relatives. We could go out whenever we wanted and wherever we wanted. In other words, we had a normal life and stability — those things that I now call life’s gifts,” she said.
“At that time, we used to get confused and get angry and upset sometimes from things that now I see are so silly. The biggest problem that faced us at that time is nothing compared with our problems now.”
“Things started to take a turn for the worse. Each day was riskier than the day before, until the day came when I decided that I could no longer handle looking over my shoulders 24/7.”
As the eldest child in her family, Dana took responsibility at an early age — responsibility that only grew upon the death of her father. For Dana, this upheaval helped to shape her personality and her growth. “I am glad because God trusted me to give me those responsibilities,” she said.
With the war escalating in Syria, Dana decided to seek employment in Iraq, moving far away from her family. Life in Iraq was hard, but she learned a lot and it prepared her for a bigger move that was yet to come.
When the situation in Iraq too became unsafe, Dana came to Australia to seek safety. SSI provided Dana with essential support and information to assist her to settle and to live independently in Australia, including linking her with a corporate partner, where she has since found employment.
“I had to start life again here. I was blessed to find work quickly and I have now secured a job in auditing,” Dana said. “I started just in October 2017. I am looking forward to continuing my career path in Australia and being able to support my family and feeling independent again.”
Along with assistance of SSI, Dana said the support of her family has made the move to Australia more bearable.
“My situation as a young single woman moving to other countries alone is unique and uncommon within my society. However, I have proven to myself and to my community, that this can be done,” she said.
“Changing perceptions and the mindsets of others is one achievement in my life that I am very proud of.”