Working as a professional surfer and brand ambassador in Venezuela, Ahmed built a beautiful life for his eight-year-old son, Matthias. “Little by little, I was growing as a person and economically.” He pictures opening the windows of Matthias’ room to the bright blues of the Carribean on Playa Grande. “I was taking him to piano lessons, swim lessons, soccer practice,” Ahmed says of their life together. “My house was always full of his friends.”
Although Ahmed shielded Matthias from much of the surrounding devastation, Venezuela was descending into a social and economic abyss. Millions of refugees fled the wreckage over the last few years, many walking for days or weeks to reach Colombia. Businesses also fled to avoid nationalization, leaving Ahmed unemployed and without hope for change.
“I was suffocating,” he says. “It just wasn’t sustainable anymore.”
Reluctantly, Ahmed left, watching everything he had built in his life slowly dip from view as he traveled to the U.S.
Determined to do everything according to the right channels, Ahmed spent all his savings on a lawyer who petitioned the U.S. government for a special visa granting legal status. While he knows how fortunate he is to have permission to work here, the pandemic shut down his opportunities to compete or represent brands, leaving him without a job, without an income, and anxious to provide for his son. Ahmed spends his days in Oceanside pursuing connections in the surfing industry, awaiting a glimmer of hope.
“I know that everything I have is because of God,” says Ahmed. But the last year pushed him to the brink of despair and exposed the limits of his faith. “I have never felt so alone,” he says. “I saw the most dark colors of my nature.”
Ahmed knows that life will be beautiful again one day when he can offer his son something of the life they had back home. “It could have been worse. There are people in much worse situations than mine,” says Ahmed. “I have made it through the worst and darkest moments, and I keep being thankful to be alive!”
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