A Syrian refugee has opened a tailoring shop in Norton with the help of Ryedale District Council (RDC).

Ammar Jokhadar, who is originally from Damasucs, arrived in Ryedale five years ago with his family as part of the Syrian refugee programme.

He opened his own business – Damascus Tailor – on Commercial Street in Norton earlier this year.

Ammar has been a tailor for 27 years, specialising in women’s clothing. He learned his trade in a factory in Syria before opening a shop in Damascus which he ran for five years.

“Having the shop here is good,” said Ammar,.“I made a Facebook page which has given me a push and customers are coming back now.

“People here are lovely and helpful. I like them.”

It took a while for him and his family to adjust when they arrived in the UK.

He said: “It was very difficult, a new country, new people, new language. It’s hard to leave your country, your home, and your parents.

“The first year when I came here, I couldn’t manage everything. It was a struggle.

“Even the food being different – I was in Morrisons looking at the food. I didn’t know what it was.”

RDC worked in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council on the Syrian Refugee Programme. RDC found the family accommodation when they arrived and the county council and Migration Yorkshire organised English lessons.

Ammar took English classes three days a week for two years but ultimately wanted to find a job and found it easier to learn the language at work.

“I like to go to work, I like to do something. I didn’t want to just go to class, go to the shops and go home, pick up the kids from school.”

Before opening his shop Ammar worked for three years at Ashley Cooke Carpets and Furniture in Malton, volunteered at a charity shop in the town and, with the help of the Refugee Council, found a job with a tailor in York for six months.

As initial accommodation was only provided for one year, officers at RDC found housing for the family to move on to.

Margaret Wallace, Programme Director for People and Resources at RDC, said: “We’re incredibly proud to take part in the Refugee Programme with our partners.

“Ammar’s story shows the value in supporting refugees when they come to our country.

“He and his family are now part of the community in Ryedale and I would like to wish him the best of luck with his business.”

Neil Forster, HR Employability Adviser at North Yorkshire County Council, said: “I have worked with Ammar since taking on the role of Employability Adviser in August 2019, and continue to work with refugees across the county.

“We started looking into the possibility of opening his own business just before the onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020. That obviously delayed the plans considerably but Ammar always maintained his positive attitude and drive towards opening his own business.

“He finally achieved his goal on 4 March 2022. He is a wonderful person and with his drive, determination and positive outlook, I know he will be a success. Well done Ammar.”

Jonathan Spencer, Refugee Resettlement Manager at North Yorkshire County Council said: “We are very pleased Malton provided a fresh start and new home to this family.

“No one can underestimate the difficulties they have been through and the courage it has taken to start their lives again in a new country with a new home to build, new jobs to begin and new schools for their little ones to attend.

“They are now an active part of the local community and contributing back to the town that has given them sanctuary and an opportunity to start again.”

The second phase of the Refugee Programme recently saw two more families welcomed by Ryedale District Council as they arrive to build a new life in the district.