Zamiaa, volunteer host: “As a Syrian, I felt I had to do everything I could to help”

Zamiaa is a home sharing host since 2015. In her Sants flat, in Barcelona, she has hosted travellers from all over the world that want to discover the city. Since February, she’s hosted Rami, an 18-year-old Syrian refugee.

I am originally from Syria and arrived in Barcelona 20 years ago. I know it can be difficult to integrate oneself, learn a new language, find a job… After the outbreak of the civil war in my country, I felt I had to help; I had to do something, no matter how small,” Zamiaa explains. “For refugees like Rami, it is infinitely more complicated because they have suffered the war, the refugee camps… until arriving here. And here they have to start from zero“.

Rami could escape from Syria two years ago and has stayed in refugee camps in Turkey, Macedonia and Greece. He doesn’t mind talking about the difficulties he has had to endure. He feels the need to tell his story. Now, he takes part in the asylum program of the Red Cross in Spain.

My plans when I still lived in Syria were to become a doctor. Now I’m learning Spanish and this September, I want to start nursing classes,” he says. “I haven’t given up on my dreams of being a doctor some day.”

Zamiaa’s daughter, Dina, was also living in Syria when the war began. She brought her to Barcelona five years ago, and now she’s in senior year of high school.

Zamiaa tries to smooth Rami’s integration process with everyday things like the transportation system or education. Syrian culture is still very present at her home through language and food. Zamiaa is a cook, and she has never stopped cooking her country’s traditional dishes, “although I also like and cook Catalan recipes,” she points out, smiling.

For years, she worked in a hotel kitchen. Until two years ago when, being unemployed, a friend of hers told her about home sharing to make ends meet. Now she’s working in a hostel and takes care of her own guests, apart from Rami and Dina. Her free time is still devoted to her passion: cooking.

When I arrived in Spain, my then husband told me not to worry about learning the language or working out of the home. But I had a clear idea that I wanted to be independent and to integrate into my new country: I learned Spanish and Catalan and looked for a job. This is what I want to teach them.”