All sewed up in Australia

Darwich Sido was happy and successful until the savagery of war destroyed his business and his home but miraculously left his optimism and ambition intact.

In 2012, Mr Sido fled Syria with his wife and three children after the civil war engulfed their home city of Afrin. Having begun his apprenticeship as a tailor at the age of 12, he went on to operate his father’s clothing alterations business and eventually employ more than 20 people.

When the war came to Afrin the Sido family escaped to Lebanon where they began the long process of seeking asylum in Australia. “Everything stopped in 2011 when the war started. The missiles started falling and suddenly our house and factory were completely gone,” Mr Sido said.

Although Mr Sido was able to obtain work as a tailor in Beirut, his children were not allowed to enrol in school and life was extremely difficult. “It was very hard to leave all our family behind in Syria, including my father. In Lebanon, however, there was no support at all and the kids missed four years of school,” he said.

 Finally in 2016, the Australian Government resettled the Sido family in Newcastle. Like many refugees, the biggest initial challenge Mr Sido faced was that he didn’t speak English. This prevented him from applying for work. “The first year was very hard for us due to not speaking English but we were still happy to be in a city where everything is safe,” he said.

Early on, the family were referred to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Development and Relief Agency (DARA) Refugee Hub, which plays a vital role in the settlement of refugees in the Newcastle and Hunter region. DARA Refugee Hub liaison officer John Sandy said Mr Sido spoke no English but was very eager to learn.

 He was enrolled in the Men’s English Composition Program at the Refugee Hub and quickly became one of its most diligent students. “As the liaison officer I was able to build connections with Darwich and his family with a big focus on helping him learn English,” Mr Sandy said.

 “He told us he was a tailor back in Syria so we were able to get him a job at Rundle Tailoring where he gained confidence and began building networks for himself.”

Mr Sido worked at Rundle Tailoring for 18 months and while grateful for the opportunity was determined to once again own his own business. “It was very hard to work for others after owning my own factory and employing a lot of people. I badly wanted to work for myself again,” he said.

So eight months ago with support from John Sandy and the Refugee Hub, Newcastle City Council, and Thrive Refugee Enterprises, a not-for-profit organisation that provides business support to refugees, Mr Sido opened Sido Tailor at Stockland Jesmond.

 Mr Sandy said watching Mr Sido realise his goal has given him enormous pleasure and reinforced the importance of the work he does. “Darwich is one of our biggest success stories. His is a tremendous achievement,” he said.

The Refugee Hub currently has 43 men and their families registered for the English Composition Program. “It’s our job to listen to their stories and support them through their pathways so they can achieve their goals just like Darwich has,” Mr Sandy said.

Mr Sido said it had been hard work but he and his family were very happy in Newcastle. “I had to save very hard to open the business but so many people helped me with advice and support,” he said. “This is the last stop on the journey.  I love this city.”

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