When I was 18 years old, I moved to India on a university scholarship from the Indian Council for Cultural Relations to follow a Bachelor in Economics, Political Science and Sociology. My aim was to have a positive political influence in Afghanistan; I wanted to be a catalyst for change. However, upon my return to Afghanistan due to the ongoing insecurity that my country was facing, I decided to leave. It took me about two months to get to Belgium where I finally arrived in the summer of 2012.

Upon arrival in Belgium, over a period of seven months I stayed in four different reception centres. This is how I became familiar with the asylum system and the various organizations involved in the reception process. I set out to make the most out of my time and started following French language classes. I also completed the compulsory integration courses offered by the Brussels’ Integration Agency BON. Another valuable step in my integration, was to volunteer with the NGO Citizen Service. This volunteer position allowed me to practice the French language, and was a launching pad for my career in Belgium. 

Through the platform for the Citizen Service network I was introduced to the Deputy Director of a local Red Cross centre. He offered me a traineeship to gain work experience, and later I was employed for three months as an Interim General Purpose Employee.I kept searching for a permanent contract. On the internal Red Cross intranet I saw a vacancy for a General Purpose Employee for the night shift at another Red Cross reception centre. The job interview was done entirely in French and I was asked about how I would react in hypothetical situations. I was really happy when I got the job - I enjoy working and having contact with other refugees. I feel I can really help them through my own experiences.

My advice for refugees who come to Belgium would be to prepare yourself well for what you want to do in the future. When I was a resident at the Red Cross centre, I dreamt of working there one day. So I prepared myself to realize this goal by learning the language, building my network, treating everyone with respect, getting a valid driver’s licence and making sure I would make a good impression. In my view, one should never stop pursuing one’s dreams and aspirations as there is always hope to move ahead in life.

Belgium provided me with living, study, and work opportunities. Afghanistan is my one eye and Belgium is the other. As long as I live, I would like to serve both countries.

Ajmal participated in a radio interview along with other volunteers of the Citizen Service. Listen to the interview here.