A REFUGEE living in South Gloucestershire has been named Community Learner of the Year.

Hecham Alsaiyad worked as a pharmacist in Syria but was forced to flee the war torn country, settling in South Gloucestershire last November to make a new life for his wife and three children.

Keen to get on with his life, the 39-year-old enrolled on two English for speakers of other languages courses and spent hours learning the language at home in Patchway.

His efforts have since been recognised by South Gloucestershire Council, who presented him with the award at an event, organised by our community learning team to reward and celebrate the achievements of people who have taken one or more of our courses over the past year.

Hecham said that while it has been difficult at times to settle into a new life, he found that the people he has met to be friendly and very supportive.

He added that he hopes to eventually go to university, with an interest in researching stem cell science, but said that in the meantime he is happy to continue with the community learning courses and that he is enjoying the sense of freedom and openness that comes with living in South Gloucestershire.

Cllr Ian Blair, chairman of South Gloucestershire Council, who presented certificates at the Community Learner of the Year event, said: “Meeting Hecham and all the other people in South Gloucestershire who have been on a community learning course was inspirational.

“You start to understand what motivates people to make a change, not just for themselves but for the benefit of their family as well.

“One of my charities which I am supporting this year is Borderlands, an organisation which reaches out to refugees and asylum seekers who need help to settle in to communities so I’m delighted to see Community Learner of the Year go Hecham who has overcome so many difficulties to succeed in this new chapter of his life.”