When did you start volunteering at Oxfam Birmingham?
I started volunteering in the Oxfam Birmingham bookshop this November after graduating with an MSc in Food Safety, Hygiene and Management from the University of Birmingham. I liked the friendly atmosphere in the shop, the many different types of books and films on offer, and the special care Ladi, the Shop Manager, takes of the books and visitors.

Why did you start volunteering at Oxfam?
I am originally from Syria where I have been volunteering for a number of years on various humanitarian aid projects. Because of my background, I want to help unfortunate people the world over, and was keen to get involved with the charity work of Oxfam, especially because Oxfam is well known for their concerted efforts in eradicating poverty in developing countries. I do believe that my volunteering in the bookshop can help people in need and promote education in the local community.

What’s your favourite book?
My favourite book is “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. This book has helped me to easily overcome many challenges and achieve happiness.

Alaa, can you tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in 1985 in Syria. So far, the year of 2014 has been the best year of my life as it is when I won the OFID Scholarship to complete my postgraduate study in the United Kingdom. At the time I was working as a food and health inspector in Syria and involved in many different types of humanitarian aid. I volunteered with the Aga Khan Health Services (in partnership with UNICEF), for more than two years as a nutritionist in a programme which cares for children under the age of five who are at risk of malnutrition. I also volunteered with an Aga Khan Heath Service programme called “caring for the elderly”, and was a member of a communications team that gathered information on local people in need of food and aid during the recent crisis.

The devastating war in my home country and the miserable life of people there, has made me determined to do my best to help people in need around the world.