Nour's Transformational Experience

Every year tens of thousands of people face displacement, political persecution and are forced to flee their homes for their own safety, unable to go back. There are thousands of talented young people who don’t have access to education because they don’t have any legal status and are restricted in their movements. This is a story of one of them.

The most striking thing about Nour is his smile and his extraordinary ability to communicate without words. Nour’s father had to flee his homeland because of the civil war in Sudan, spending years moving from one country to another – Libya, Egypt and Syria. Finally, he settled in Lebanon where Nour and his younger sister were born. Unfortunately, being born in Lebanon didn’t allow the family to obtain Lebanese citizenship and neither Nour or his sister were granted refugee status.

Despite the numerous times this family was forced to relocate, Nour’s father made sure his son had the best education possible. And Nour did his best as well: he was a talented student, fluent in Arabic and French with a keen interest in the sciences.

I was stressed when someone was asking me questions not directly related to sciences, I was taken for a genius because of good academic results, but I didn’t feel quite comfortable. There were times I even felt isolated. Luckily, headmasters of my elementary and middle schools were very supportive of me. Then, one day when I was recognised one of the top students, it became easier to deal with everyone in my class.

When Nour applied to UWC for the first time, although being fluent in French and Arabic, he still had major difficulties with English and could barely keep up with all the stages of the selection. During the debates, that Nour himself called his “talon d’Achille” (fr. Achilles heel), he “had lost the game in advance”.

I was glad to finally be exposed to everything that happens in the world, so I decided to practice in order to be able to speak on various subjects.

And he was good to his word. Next year Nour applied again, and this time he was selected. Moreover, he was nominated to UWC Dilijan by the National Committee of Lebanon for the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative’s Gratitude Scholarship Programme.

Nour came a long way to become a member of the UWC Dilijan family. At the time of his nomination, Nour had no identification documents except for his birth certificate and his father’s refugee certificate. This meant that although having won the scholarship, he still wasn’t able to leave the country.

It is thanks to the joint efforts and support of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, IDeA Foundation, UNHCR, National Committee of Lebanon, International Committee of Red Cross, Armenian State Migration Service and UWC Dilijan, that after long months of struggle and anticipation, and, at times, desperation, Nour was finally granted Laissez Passer issued by the ICRC Armenia, which allowed him to finally travel to Armenia.

I feel honoured to be awarded the Aurora Gratitude Scholarship. I will never forget the contribution they made and everything they have done for me. At some point I lost my hope, I gave up, thinking there is no way I am getting to Armenia. I am happy that there were people at UWC Dilijan, the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and National Committee of Lebanon that didn’t give up.

In the beginning of March, Nour received a travel document. Now he can stay in Armenia for two years to accomplish his IB Diploma Programme and also freely travel home to see his family in Lebanon.

Nour describes his experience at UWC Dilijan up to now as transformational in every way. Being surrounded by such a supportive community has made him a more open and sociable person. Here, he says, he learned how important it is to know others in order to know who you are.

Nour’s friends describe him as humble, charismatic, with unfailing qualities of love and kindness. “He is always happy and smiles no matter how hard the challenges are. He is always curious to learn new things, new perspectives, always keen to hear and understand. Nour has changed me, he has taught me to have hope and to stand up to challenges,” says his co-year, Workneh from Ethiopia.

Nour is now in his 2nd semester at UWC Dilijan. He enjoys working with the local community in the Transformation Through Tennis CAS, where he is learning to play tennis together with the young children from Dilijan internat* and is getting to know their life, difficulties and joys. He is also a keen eagerly contributor to the Bike Maintenance CAS, learning the basics of engineering. Nour’s dream is that his sister too, who’s now 15, becomes a part of UWC. We wish Nour all the best in his UWC journey which has just begun.

* The internat is a home for kids from socially challenged families and families at-risk from Dilijan and neighbouring villages.