With new beginnings comes new hope

A Special Projects case study

In 2014, when he fled Syria with his parents and three siblings, Kamal was just 12 years old. He arrived in Germany frightened and confused. Then he discovered the Award…  

“When I met Kamal, he was 15 years old and hated school. As his form teacher, I tried to help him with academic requirements, and although it was clear that deep down he wanted to achieve, he hid behind the words “No, I don’t care, I don’t need that, I can’t do that”. His attitude was understandable; his grandfather had not wanted him to go to school in Syria which   meant that Kamal was illiterate. He felt that however hard he  tried; he would never be able to catch up with   the other students. He started getting into trouble and many teachers had actually given up on him.  

At the end of the school year, we began delivering the Award in our school. We took our first nine participants on their Adventurous Journey practice training. While   on a high ropes course, in an extraordinary moment, the eight other students told Kamal they would lay their lives in his hands despite the fact that he had not been much of a team player up to this point. He showed real leadership qualities with both teachers and peers following him in heavy weather conditions. 

From this magical moment onwards, things changed. I believe it was the first time he felt he belonged somewhere outside of his family. All the good qualities I knew he had in him began to shine. He was helpful and reliable and the other students saw this in him too. . 

For the various sections of his Bronze Award, Kamal chose boxing, planning the school festival and learning sailing theory on an old yawl. For his Adventurous Journey, along with three otherboys, he did a biking tour through secluded  Uckermark, a region north of Berlin. This tour turned out to be a real game-changer. Kamal found his passion.   

Since this trip, he has completed an internship at a bike store where he learnt to repair bikes. He found a job he could do in the evenings and was soon able to buy an old bike so that he could go on biking trips. 

Kamal is currently completing his Silver Award. In March 2019he travelled to Osterburken to join an Award mentoring course for young people. His dream is to  be a teacher at his school, helping young people in difficult situations like his, to find theirpassion and purpose in life. I have never heard the words “I don’t care, I don’t need that, or I can’t do this”  from Kamal again.  

Funded by a Special Projects grant (Strong Teens Project by The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Germany, 2018).