A CHEMICAL engineer from Syria, who has extensively travelled the world in his 52 years, says Cork people are the nicest he has ever met.
Ossama Al Dawamenah, who studied chemical engineering in Saudi Arabia before completing a masters in Swansea, Wales, has been living in Cork for the past 20 months and told The Echo he loves the Cork people.
The accomplished engineer, who loves inventing new chemical substances in his spare time, came to Cork on a work permit in 2018 to work for a multinational IT security company.
“I came in June 2018, I trained online to work as an internal sales manager on Parliament Street with a multinational US company.
"Their EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) offices were in Cork. I worked there for 16 months.”
Unfortunately, Ossama was told the Middle East market was not performing and the company decided to stop selling in that area for the time being.
He is currently in a catch-22 situation as he is attempting to get a another work visa in order to find employment elsewhere.
“I can’t get another job as I need a work visa, I am applying for jobs but all the companies require the work visa and I can’t go home due to the ongoing situation in Syria.”
Ossama left Syria in 2010 and worked in Saudi Arabia for some time.
“I fear being caught up in the dictator regime, my family is known for opposing the system politically.
"I believe in freedom of speech, I can’t go home or I would be in danger of jail, torture or being killed.
"There is no way I could go back,” said Ossama.
"Here in Ireland, I feel safe and free.”
Ossama and his family have now applied for refugee status and they were due to have their interview before the Covid-19 crisis but it has been postponed until June.
Thankfully, Ossama, his wife Rana and their five children are not alone in Cork as Ossama’s brother Othman also lives in Carrigaline, close to the family: “My brother is living in Cork, he is an Irish citizen, living in Carrigaline with his family. He is helping to support me at the moment.”
Chatting about his previous career, Ossama said he has a wealth of experience working with all kinds of chemicals and had his own company for some time in chemical trading.
“I have 25 years of experience in different fields of chemical engineering: Coating, plastics, artificial marble, fibreglass, cosmetics, detergents and chemical trading.”
The 52-year-old said he still likes to tinker with chemicals and has a few inventions that he hopes to patent.
As well as this, he is learning about wind and solar energy.
“I like to diversify my knowledge.
"I am doing a lot of research into solar and wind energy at the moment, that is my main reading interests presently.”
Comparing Cork to the Gulf where he and his family had been living prior to moving to Ireland, Ossama said the people in Cork are sociable and friendly and the landscape is very beautiful.
“I really like people’s attitudes here.
"I also enjoy the green fields and farms and nature.
"The gulf is a desert which is nice and I like the sun but the green nature is nice for a change. Cork is very clean.”
Ossama and Rana have five children. Their eldest daughter Falak is married in Carrigaline and expecting her first child.
Shaza, is studying IT at the College of Commerce and Ossama said she is doing very well.
“I have high hopes for her to have a good career,” the proud father said.
Rana and Ossama also have three boys, Muhamed, who is in Transition Year in a school in Douglas; Khaled, five, who is in preschool, and Mahnad, two, who will be starting kindergarten next year.
The Syrian said he hopes to stay in Ireland with his family, become an Irish citizen and contribute to society: “I have an ambition to become an Irish citizen and use my inventions to create something good for Ireland.”
His favourite memory of his time in Ireland was a family visit to Bantry with his brother Othman and his family and his sister Reem who came to visit for a month.
“My best memory is a family gathering in Bantry, the weather was great, the people were lovely.
“Me and my brother went with our families and our sister Reem came over to visit for a month and came with us. It was so nice to see her, so good to connect.”
Ossama has siblings in Canada, the States, Syria, Saudi Arabia and his parents now live in Saudi Arabia.
“We are all over the place, unfortunately.” Ossama said.
Chatting about missing home, Ossama said he missed the heat and his family but said thanks to technology it is easier than ever to stay in touch.
“I do miss home, but with social media, it is easier to stay in contact.”