Faisal Hamdo left Syria in 2014 to escape the war in his country. He built a new life for himself in Germany and now has a permanent contract as a physiotherapist at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf.
In his homeland Syria, Faisal Hamdo qualified with a diploma in Physiotherapy at the University of Aleppo. After that, he worked for two years in a physiotherapy practice and in an organisation for children with disabilities. But the war changed the 28-year-old’s life overnight. Initially, he continued to work on a voluntary basis as a physiotherapist. However, the situation became ever more precarious, and in June 2014 he fled to Germany, with one big wish in his luggage: “I was looking for a safe future in Germany and hoped to be able to practise my occupation here.”
But the language posed a problem. For this reason Faisal Hamdo attended a language course and attained B1 level. He also thought about his professional future. Acquaintances advised him to turn to the Zentrale Anlaufstelle Anerkennung (ZAA) at the Diakonie-Hilfswerk [Counselling Centre for Recognition of Qualifications] in Hamburg. The counselling centre is part of Hamburg’s IQ Network - NOBI. There he was advised to apply for recognition of his occupation at the Hamburg Authority for Health and Consumer Protection. The first attempt failed as his diploma was missing. For assessment of the reference occupation it is essential to present one’s diploma. He had to submit the relevant documents. But how was this possible given the situation in Syria? “I could neither fly to Syria nor ask somebody from my family to get hold of the documents from the university. But in this difficult situation I had a stroke of luck.” The father of a girl whom Faisal had occasionally treated free of charge in his therapy centre before the outbreak of war obtained the papers for him. And so, at the second attempt, the application was a success and the recognition notice arrived within a month.
Mr Hamdo was able to compensate for the certified substantial differences compared to the German training by taking part in adaptation training. As a B2 language level is a requirement, he first of all completed a language course for healthcare occupations at the IQ project of passage gGmbH. In the same period he secured a place for the six-month Adaptation Qualification for Healthcare Occupations (APQ) at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf’s Academy for Training and Career. This IQ project combines theoretical and practical elements. Four days a week Faisal Hamdo worked with the team at the University Medical Centre, while instruction and clinical training were also provided. As a rule, one day was set aside for workshops. “At first I was somewhat reserved, but I had mentors and received close support. Gradually I was able to participate in treatments and at the end of my practical placement carry them out myself.” At the end of his qualification period in late 2015 he was able to successfully demonstrate his specialist knowledge and obtained full recognition of his profession. During the adaptation training Mr Hamdo did not receive just a monthly stipend. The Hamburg Scholarship Programme also covered the one-off costs for the procedure fees, language course and transport.
The 28-year-old quickly found a job: “During the language course for healthcare occupations I undertook a practical placement in a physiotherapy practice. After obtaining recognition I got a job there as a specialist. In March I transferred to the University Medical Centre.” Faisal Hamdo works as a physiotherapist in the intensive care unit there and is happy: “I now have a permanent contract and thus a secure existence. Due to obtaining recognition I have the feeling that I am part of this society and can play a role in shaping the country.”
Faisal Hamdo has written about his experiences in a book. In “Fern von Aleppo – Wie ich als Syrer in Deutschland lebe” he describes not only how he mastered the many challenges he had to face, but also provides insight into life in his country of origin.
The conversation with Faisal Hamdo took place in January 2018. During the recognition procedure he received advice and support from the Hamburg Authority for Health and Consumer Protection as well as three sub-projects of Hamburg’s IQ Network - NOBI: the ZAA at the Diakonie-Hilfswerk in Hamburg, passage gGmbh concerning the language course, and the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf during the refresher Training.