Bahraini Views, the series I created to celebrate inspirational Bahrainis opened my eyes to a lot of things about the Bahraini spirit. One is that we’re not “special”, two is that we’re just normal human beings with regular aspirations, emotions and expectations, and three, although we live in a tiny speck of a country that doesn’t appear in most world maps, bogged down with more than our fair share of adverse circumstances, some of us rise above the surrounding doom and gloom and just wrench out the tiniest dot of opportunity, build on it and change the shape of our lives and those around us.
Meeting such people is not just inspirational, it is also humbling.
These inspirational Bahrainis are not exclusive to Bahrain of course. We’re a small country, yes, but our reach is far.
Consider Thaef Hashem for instance. Driven away from the home country, with hard work, tenacity and determination has carved something out for himself.
Thaer Hashem, 27
Originally from Bahrain, now a finalist in medicine at St George’s, University of London
When Thaer was 14, his parents and three siblings were forced to flee their family home in Bahrain. “My father was being tortured by the government,” he says softly. “So we applied for asylum in the UK.” But Thaer struggled to fit in. “We had to start life from scratch â€“ we had very little savings, and were living off benefits until my dad found work,” he explains.
“I started school unable to speak any English. It was very frustrating. In Bahrain I’d dreamed of being a doctor, but suddenly I was the new boy. I couldn’t understand the meaning of the work I was meant to do, let alone do it.” With his family struggling financially, Thaer also missed out on typical teenage life. “I couldn’t go out with mates because we didn’t have the money. They’d wear cool clothes, but I couldn’t and I felt different.”
Thaer worked hard to improve his English, and took GNVQs and an A-level in Arabic, his first language. “My teacher told me that wasn’t enough to get into medicine, and also that universities would rank me as an overseas student, since my family didn’t have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, so I couldn’t afford it. But I was desperate to go, so I started contacting as many unis as I could. By chance, I discovered that Kingston had a special scheme to increase university participation. They assessed me as a home student for the medical science course, and I got in.”
At Kingston, Thaer supported himself working as a barman and at Russell & Bromley. He graduated with a 2.1. “My family were so proud. My dad quit school when he was 15, so me going to university was a big deal. Also around that time, my family was given leave to remain in the UK.”
Thaer’s lecturer at Kingston then told him about St George’s medicine course, which considers students from different backgrounds, and encouraged him to apply. First, he had to take a year out to earn money to pay back debts he had already run up, but in 2004 he applied.
“Getting in was a dream come true,” he says. “I’d never have thought someone from my background would be able to get into such a competitive degree. I’ve decided to specialise in plastic surgery, working on trauma cases in the UK to give something back to this country. I’m so grateful for the widening participation schemes. Not everyone has equal opportunities to shine at school.”
Thanks for the hat-tip Mike