Refugees of the North East #1: Reza

Coming from a family with agricultural tradition back in Iran, Reza sought involvement with activities that allowed him to be outdoors and care for the land. Maintaining a strong bond with nature helps him stay ‘grounded’ and fills him with a sense of fulfilment; “If we look after the planet then the planet will look after us”, he maintains as a core philosophy in his life.

Being an experienced gardener, Reza has been playing a key role in looking after the allotments at The Comfrey Project all year round, ensuring they are well maintained and supporting others to grow many vegetables, fruit and flowers.

Through gardening Reza explains that someone can observe the seasons and learn the idiosyncrasies of the ground and the native plants and this is another way to feel connected to and part of a new country.

Reza arrived in Dover in 2001, after leaving his country due to the dangers he faced for having converted to Christianity, from Islam. Lack of religious freedom has been forcing many people around the world to flee their home country he says.

Reza hopes that other people can understand the difficult decisions involved in leaving your country to come and seek asylum. ‘Everybody has a different story and a different challenge when coming to a new country and it can be very difficult to settle here if you don’t know the language, culture or if you don’t have any friends or family’.

Reza feels he has adjusted well to life in the UK, but as he is still waiting to receive asylum after seventeen years, he faces barriers to obtaining a right to work. He does not lose hope, however, and looks forward to when he will be able to study in order to become a plumber or a gardener, or both!

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