Ghada Saleh – 50 years old

I am a Sudanese woman who changed her life, looking for safety, freedom in her life, and who struggled to build her life and the lives of her children anew in a free country. 

On 31 August 2001, I moved to Delft with my children and my husband after our case as asylum seekers was closed and we were denied residency. Before this happened, my husband had been admitted to a master’s programme at Delft University of Technology, but unfortunately he could not finish the programme because of our situation at the time. We moved to Delft, and we could not know what our life would be like after we had been denied residency and we would be living here illegally. I was very worried. I was very afraid we would be stopped by the police and deported. I had no idea how to raise my children without money. The city would not pay for people without papers. We had no fixed address. We had to move from place to place in Delft. My husband and I decided to fight for our children’s future. I kept telling myself I had to be strong and keep fighting. 

In 2004, I was accepted at the international business and management programme at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. The refugee support organisation agreed to pay for my studies at the university. This created a small bright spot in my hard, dark existence. I struggled to finish the programme. I was overstretched, but it was one of my goals to complete my studies. I was able to get a good job and I make a positive contribution to society. I managed to complete my studies despite the many obstacles in my way. This was the second bright spot in my life. I have to keep fighting, I told myself.

Getting involved in Delft
Getting involved in the community was one of the most powerful steps, bringing lots of positive things into my life. People in Delft have been very helpful to me in overcoming many obstacles in order to have a life. 

Ten years on, I have my residency permit and my new life has begun, I tell myself. Doors will open, and now we can settle like ordinary people living ordinary lives. The third bright spot. Life does not come to a halt here… it has to go on. 

For ten years, I was chairperson of the Sudanese community in Delft. Last year, I won the power award for this. I became ambassador for child protection and chairperson of the worldwide goodwill ambassadors for Sudan. All of this happened from Delft, the city that opened its arms, and received us and looked after us with its kind heart. 

My life has been a lesson to my children: keep fighting until you have achieved what you want. I used to say to them there are bright spots in our lives, we have to believe in ourselves, that life will overcome obstacles. Be kind, help others, treat others with compassion, be humane. However difficult life gets, do not give up.