A voice for newcomers in Sweden

'Bringing my camera to Sweden was the best thing I ever did'

Ahmad Aldurra. Photo: Private

Published: 30.May.2016 16:09 hrs

29-year-old Ahmad Aldurra, originally from Damascus, arrived in Sweden in October last year. He tells The Local how he already feels "part of a family" thanks to a photography internship.

Aldurra arrived at Svenshögen asylum centre in central Sweden over two years after leaving Syria. Fifteen days into his stay there, he met Marie Lindblad, a director at voluntary organization Kulturcentrum Väst, who was visiting someone living there.

Lindblad told him about Kulturcentrum and its work offering cultural activities and theatre training for people with special needs, including autism, Down Syndrome and ADHD. Aldurra was fascinated, and eagerly accepted an invitation to one of their shows.

He took along the photography equipment he had brought with him from Syria and took some pictures, which were admired by the volunteers.

When Aldurra asked if he could work for them they answered: “We help those who help us.”

“They offered me an internship and I started working for them - less than a month after arriving in Sweden,” explains Aldurra.

One of Aldurra's photos from a performance at Kulturcentrum. Photo: Private

He quickly got stuck in, shooting plays and rehearsals for the centre. His eye for a good picture resulted in stunning photos and requests soon came pouring in for him to cover events such as baptisms or weddings.

As he realized his talent could be a way to give back to the country that had welcomed him, Aldurra made a decision. "I decided to tell every Swede I met about my skills, and offer my help,"  he says.

One of Aldurra's photos. Photo: Private

His most recent project was shooting a performance of a silent play, Crossroads, at the Kulturcentrum, which portrayed the struggles of people with special needs.

"There were funny scenes and other tragic ones, but what mostly touched the heart were the performers’ facial expressions," remembers Aldurra. "The audience cried, and I cried; although the play was silent you can still understand their sorrow.”

The Crossroads performance. Photo: Private

Aldurra is full of admiration for the Kulturcentrum. "I am very happy that I’ve worked with these people, they are great and so passionate; it felt like I was in a family. If you attend the rehearsals, you’d witness how great their coaches and teacher are, you feel how attached the performers are to their coaches – just like if they were their parents."

He also has a positive attitude towards his adopted country - and doesn't buy into stereotypes of Sweden as dull or its inhabitants as reserved and introverted.

"I really love this country,” he says. “Some people might think Sweden can be boring because of its small population. I see it differently, it’s calm and quiet – this country gives you peace of mind and soul.”

“I have built relationships with many Swedes, even though I don’t speak Swedish or very good English. I don’t see them as introverts."

"People here seem humble and they appreciate it when you help them.”

The Crossroads performance. Photo: Private

His advice to other newcomers: "Try to take the first step and communicate with them.”

After finishing his internship with Kulturcentrum, Aldurra was recently offered another at an adult education college in Värnamo, which may lead to permanent employment.

“If you want to work, you can always find something to do,” he says, adding that he thinks people complain too much about Sweden’s job market.

“I don’t complain, I just kept offering my services to people until I got an internship.

“People were really happy with my work, they told me they would never forget me and that’s what I wanted from the beginning."

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