When I was 17, I was in a band and wanted to be a musician, but my father wanted me to be an engineer, so I went on to get a degree in Civil Engineering, and a Masters in Construction Management. As soon as I finished, I decided to leave Iraq. We Christians were never treated as true citizens, and I felt that any moment I could be called to go and fight in a war I didn’t believe in, so I decided to go to Jordan, where I worked as a project manager for 2 years, before migrating to Australia.
When I first arrived in Australia, I couldn’t find a job as an engineer, which frustrated me, but then I realised that it was a new life and a new country, so I had to step back a few steps. I made the decision to study Real Estate, and I quickly found work as a real estate agent in Fairfield, where I worked for 5 years. But then I started to ask myself – am I really a sales person? I was successful, but I had a soft heart. My boss would say to me, ‘Why are you always reducing your commission to help these people? You should go and work in Social Work!’ So I went to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Adult Education. Meanwhile, I found a job as a Case Manager working with newly arrived refugees, and after 4 months, I was promoted to Case Co-ordinator, where I was exposed to hundreds of cases. It was then that I realised the struggle of those people, who had all been through different types of persecution, and I got deeply emotionally involved in my work helping them to start a new life here. Psychologically, it was very rewarding, but when you keep listening to traumatic stories, it affects you too. In 2011, I finished my Masters in Social Science, after which I became as a Community Liaison Officer in local schools, where I’m now a Team Leader. Then, in 2014, I established the Arts and Community Development office in Fairfield, which is the first private organisation that looks after arts and community development in South Western Sydney.
I am also involved in The Choir of Love, which started as a Catholic, church based choir in 2004. One day, the church deacan asked if I could play keyboard for them – I didn’t know anything about choirs, but I found I loved it, and I put a lot of effort into improving the music, making the old hymns more modern. From this, the choir started getting invited to other churches, so we decided to become a Christian choir without belonging to any particular denomination, and I started to compose and conduct. In 2012, we started using music as a way of healing from post traumatic stress disorder for the Chaldean, Assyrian and Syriac refugees from Iraq. Our first project was called We Sing for Love and Peace, a CD of Christmas songs, after which we did many concerts. The next year, we did a theatrical performance, and currently, we are working on a CD with 7 original songs about peace and harmony, called Songs of Peace from Australia to Mesopotamia.
Over the years, many of my choir members have gone on to become leaders in other choirs, which makes me proud. It’s like a seed that bears fruit.
I went from being a musician to an engineer, to a business man, and now I’ve become a social worker who looks after the community through music. I feel so lucky to be here in this country – I have achieved all that I dreamed of.
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