Finally safe after the war and medical malpractice
“Today we are learning the alphabet of the Finnish language,” says a male voice in a YouTube video. The video goes through the Finnish vowels and their pronunciation. The man on screen is Aladdin Delli, the Refugee Man of the Year 2022.
Aladdin arrived in Finland with his brother as a quota refugee in April 2019. There was an unstable life behind him in the middle of the war in Syria, followed by two and a half tough years spent in Russia. Aladdin had obtained a visa to Russia for eye surgery, as he had lost sight of one eye when he was 7 years old, and due to illness, the eyesight in his other eye has also deteriorated.
“Life in Syria in the middle of the war was not safe, and my visual impairment made it even more challenging. I thought my life would get better with eye surgery, but I was wrong,” Aladdin says.
- Age: 31
- Family: Mother and little brother in Finland, siblings, father and stepmother in Turkey and Syria
- Lives in: Tampere
- Profession: Physiotherapist and speech therapist, volunteer in Suurella Sydämellä network
- Arrived in Finland: Originally from Syria, arrived as a quota refugee from Russia in 2019
- Special: Has made a YouTube instructional video on how to pronounce Finnish vowels
In his eye surgery in Russia, Aladdin lost his sight permanently due to malpractice when a doctor used dirty tools. At the same time, his hearing also declined significantly. Despite his disabilities, Aladdin could not just stay home because he needed money to support himself.
For two years, he and his brother worked over 10 hours a day in a clothing factory where Aladdin did not receive any assistance. To cover their living expenses, they sold bread for additional income.
“I had to spend all my savings on hospital expenses, and the money I got from work was just enough to pay rent. However, there was a happy turn in our lives when we got asylum in Finland,” Aladdin says and smiles.
Anything is possible
In Finland, Aladdin settled in Tampere. Aladdin was interested in the Finnish language and Finnish culture from the very beginning. He started a Finnish language course, and he used to study the subjects of the next lesson in advance so he could ask the teacher questions about the topic. He was particularly interested in pronouncing the Finnish language—after all, he had worked as a speech therapist for several years in Syria. In less than two years after coming to Finland, Aladdin had mastered the language very well.
“I got an internship at the Tampere Vocational College as an assistant to a Finnish language teacher. I supported the students in practicing the language, and I also had the opportunity to teach the pronunciation of the Finnish language to immigrants. Inspired by the lessons, I made an instructional video for YouTube. The students seemed motivated in my lessons, and I also got good feedback from the teachers,” Aladdin rejoices.
Aladdin’s motivation to learn the language was to get to working life, but also to be able to help others. In the future, he wishes to continue to teach Finnish to other immigrants. Although things are more challenging as deafblind, and some have doubted his chances along the way, with the right kind of support and assistance, Aladdin believes that anything is possible.
“Inspiring work has an important role in my life. I aspire to get into working life and help others and society through my work. I’m happy if I can put my head on the pillow at night knowing that I’ve done even one good deed during the day.”
In Syria, Aladdin dreamed of a career as a doctor, but due to his visual impairment, it was not possible. Instead, however, he was able to study to be a physiotherapist and speech therapist. Today, Aladdin’s dream is to get into college, and he has applied for social services studies this spring. The study of the Finnish language will also continue so that Aladdin can fulfil his dream of going to university to study the Finnish language and literature.
Emphasizing the importance of language and breaking prejudices
Aladdin is active in the Suurella Sydämellä volunteering network that supports refugees’ integration into Finland. As a volunteer, Aladdin helps refugees to get to know their new hometown and Finnish culture and language. He hopes to pursue such activities as the Refugee Man of the Year.
“I hope to be an inspiration to other refugees who have come to Finland and who think that the Finnish language or survival in a new environment is difficult. I want to encourage them: Learning the Finnish language and understanding Finland’s history is the key to living in Finland,” Aladdin reflects.
As the Refugee Man of the Year, Aladdin wants to bring to awareness the position of immigrants in the labour market. Sometimes employers may have preconceptions based on misinformation and do not always trust the skills of employees with a foreign background. These preconceptions prevent immigrants from proving their talents and potential.
“Finland is an equal country, and many things are possible for most people. However, people with immigrant backgrounds face different challenges and have different starting points. I hope to be able to change prejudices and build trust on both sides,” Aladdin sums up.