Alia Al Mohamad’s story of perseverance and passion for humanity is one that will inspire any woman lucky enough to cross her path.

Alia had everything she could dream of in Syria – a beautiful and loving family, her own house, a business and an impressive career. She was a super-woman, able to do it all.

Alia worked as a qualified midwife in Syria for 11 years, both in a public hospital and at her private clinic, while raising four children. Life was busy, but it brought a lot of happiness to Alia.

“I worked really hard to build up my own business and my own house. Then, I lost everything when I left my country, everything I had created in my life,” explains Alia calmly.

“The war started in 2011, but it started in other cities. After maybe six months, it reached my hometown. When I tried to go to my work, soldiers stopped me. Then, I lost my job, because the hospital was bombed, completely demolished.”

The hospital where Alia worked in Syria, before the war and after it was bombed.

Just like that, life in Syria was no longer an option for Alia and her family. Alia’s husband, Mowafak, fled first to Lebanon and six months later, Alia followed with her children.

“I didn’t choose to stay or leave, I had to leave my country,” explains Alia. “It was unsafe, and my children were scared.”

After four years in Lebanon, New Zealand offered resettlement to Alia’s family. It was a shock for Alia, who had never heard of New Zealand until that day.

“I didn’t know New Zealand,” explains Alia with a giggle. “But a friend told me it was a really good country and that people were very kind.”

Kindness is what Alia and her family were looking for after fleeing the horrors of the war. They arrived in New Zealand on 29 June 2016.

“The first year in New Zealand was very difficult. Sometimes I felt homesick, I spent maybe six months just crying. After that I went to school and saw new people.”

Red Cross has helped us a lot, and now they still help us. Any issue, we go to Red Cross and ask for advice. Our volunteers helped us with everything in our life. I think our volunteers still help us now because they are very kind, very helpful, they are very good people. I consider them part of us.”

Alia and her family in their home in Dunedin.

With the help of her new friends, Alia was able to build a new life in Dunedin and look forward to her Kiwi future – a mindset which requires a lot of courage and strength, when everything you have worked for has been lost.

When Alia arrived in New Zealand, she had no English. She explains she was unable to communicate with the air hostess on her journey to Aotearoa: “I couldn’t even say ‘water’ to the lady on the plane, I didn’t know how to tell her my daughter needed water!”  

It was very important for Alia to learn English quickly and well, as she aspires to be a midwife in New Zealand, even if this means starting all over again.

“In Syria, I studied, graduated, had my own house and my own clinic, but now I have to start from scratch.” she says.

“I have plan A and plan B – unfortunately, I couldn’t reach my plan A, but maybe in the future, Inshallah, yes. Plan A is to be a midwife, plan B is to be a nurse. Now I’ve been accepted [into my first year of studying nursing]. I’m happy about that. Maybe in the future I can be a midwife.”

Alia wasn’t able to get into midwifery because her English language proficiency wasn’t quite high enough. A few more years learning the language and there is no doubt Alia’s incredible passion for midwifery will lead her to becoming a midwife in Dunedin one day. She is already supporting pregnant women in her community, other refuge-background Syrians, as a friend.

“Working as a midwife is part of me, anytime – midwifery is my passion. It means humanity, resilience, being kind. It means a lot to me.”