Father who came to Swansea from Jordan turns his passion into a career after learning English

“Learning English has helped me to turn my dreams into a reality.”

A father of three from Swansea who arrived in Wales five years ago has won an Inspire! award after his hard work and determination to learn English and build a better life for his family.

Walid Musa Albuqai, now 40, grew up in Syria but was forced to flee the country with his wife and three daughters ten years ago because of the war.

He worked on a farm during his early years and later as a warehouse manager and factory worker but struggled to find a permanent role due to the ongoing conflict.

 

Walid has been awarded the Different Past: Shared Futures Inspire! award for using his newly acquired English language skills to embark on a new career path as a bus driver in Swansea.

Walid said: “Because of the situation in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, the United Nations gave families like mine the option to move to the UK. Not everyone moved, but my family and I decided it was the right thing to do and we were keen to make a better life for ourselves in the UK.

“We were told we’d be moving to Swansea, and I was excited because I had never been to Wales before. I love it here because of the people and the beautiful beaches. It’s a very friendly city and I’d been able to find work which I’m very grateful for.”

 

When he first arrived in Swansea, Walid spoke very little English. He struggled with basic grammar and sentence structure, so he started studying Entry Level 1 English as a Second Language (ESOL) at Gower College Swansea.

“When I first moved to the UK my English was very basic. My support workers helped a lot, and I volunteered at a charity shop to practice my English and start making friends with people in the local community” he said.

By attending classes regularly, studying outside of class and taking opportunities to practice speaking English, Walid was able to develop his language skills. He also took advantage of online resources including grammar lessons and apps to continue learning outside of his classes.

Walid continued: “With the help of my tutor, I have now completed Level 1 and 2 and was recently awarded Student of the Year at my college.

“My daughters are thirteen, nine and six. They go to English-language schools and have also helped me to improve my English. They, along with my wife, inspire me every day and have encouraged me to turn my dreams into a reality.”

 

Walid is one of 11 winners to be recognised at the 2023 Inspire! Awards. Co-ordinated by the Learning and Work Institute with support from the Welsh Government. The Inspire! Awards recognise those who have demonstrated a commitment to never stop learning. Each Inspire! winner demonstrates how learning can offer second chances, help create new career opportunities, build confidence, and help communities to become vibrant and successful.

After completing the pre-intermediate ESOL course, Walid applied for a number of jobs including a bus driver role with FirstBus. Despite never having driven a bus before, his passion for driving and language skills shone through during the interview, and he got the job.

“I absolutely love working as a bus driver because I love driving. Practically, the exam wasn’t too difficult, but the theory test was hard. I wouldn’t have been able to do the interview without my English skills. I owe my career to those classes.

“In my role I’m able to help people from all backgrounds. Some of our passengers are elderly, disabled or children and I am proud that I am providing a safe and comfortable environment for them.”

 

Walid is now looking ahead to the future and hoping to complete his Level 3 in English as a Second Language before re-training as a driving instructor.

Walid said: “I would like to encourage others to return to learning and pursue their goals, no matter how challenging it may seem.

“My advice is to work hard and never give up. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it. I am really excited to see where my journey takes me as I continue to make my way towards my goals and making a difference in my community.”

 

Stephen Oliver, an ESOL lecturer at Gower College Swansea, nominated Walid for his Inspire! Award. He said:

“Walid’s story is an inspiring example of how education can open doors and lead to unexpected opportunities.  His dedication to learning and perseverance in the face of challenges have enabled him to embark on a new career path that he never imagined possible.  He is a true inspiration to all those who seek to overcome barriers and achieve their dreams.”

The Inspire! Awards will take place this year on September 14th and celebrate the achievements of exceptional individuals, community projects and organisations.

 

For adults in Wales keen to start their learning journey, in-person taster courses and online sessions will run throughout September and during Adult Learners’ Week (18th – 24th September), with advice and information available locally to inspire people to take up learning as a way of increasing their employability and boosting their mental

 

Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, said: “Congratulations to this year’s Inspire! Award winners and nominees. It’s incredible to see so many individuals of different ages, from varied backgrounds, and with a range of abilities overcoming personal challenges and becoming role models for us all.

“The Inspire! Awards are a fantastic platform to showcase learners who have gone above and beyond to turn their lives around and succeed in their careers. Thanks to their hard work and dedication, this year’s winners have shown how learning can help pave the way to personal and professional success.

 

Joshua Miles, Director for Wales at Learning and Work Institute, said: “The Inspire! Awards serve as a reminder of how important it is to never stop learning. We live in a world that’s changing rapidly. Between the impact of the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and the emergence of new technologies, nothing stays still for long. Learning helps us adapt to this change and ultimately benefit from it.

“If we keep learning and improving our skills throughout our lives, we can continue to increase our job prospects and are more likely to secure a promotion or be able to change careers. We also know that learning is good for our self-esteem and mental health, making us feel more linked to our community.

“Our Inspire! Award winners are a testament to how learning throughout our lives can help us deal with life’s challenges. As we celebrate our winners, we hope that their stories can inspire more people across Wales to take part in courses throughout Adult Learners’ Week.”

 

To find out what’s going on during Adult Learners’ Week, and for personalised advice on your own learning options and support available, get in touch with Working Wales on 0800 028 4844 or search www.workingwales.gov.wales.

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