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As the war began to escalate in Syria, Manal’s village just outside of Damascus became a target for destruction. Forced to leave their community and home, Manal, along with her husband, two sons and a daughter found themselves living in an old building shared by many others in a space partitioned off to make one small room. Manal lost her job and tried to make some money by cleaning homes of wealthy families in Damascus. Her husband’s job was secure, but it made it impossible for him to attempt to leave. For fear that their oldest son would be taken for the army, he made his way to Europe. The journey was difficult, and Manal feared the worst, as she didn’t hear from him for weeks. Eventually he landed in Sweden.
The situation continued to worsen in Syria so Manal made the decision to attempt to reach Europe, bringing her eight-year-old son and seven-year-old niece with her. She hoped that traveling with children would increase her chances of getting through. At times the journey was so harrowing, Manal thought she would give up. After one long month, she finally reached Germany where she was placed in a refugee center and then after another 45 days of waiting, was transferred to another center in the southern Black Forest. Shortly after she arrived, her sister miraculously came to live at a refugee center near her. Her husband and daughter; however, would remain in Syria for another two years and eight months before coming to join her and their youngest son in Germany.
Making her way in a new country without her family or understanding the language has been very challenging. Manal continues to press on in hope that a better life lies ahead.
Several years ago, Basheer left his hometown of Damascus to escape the war that broken out in his country and begin a new life in Beirut, Lebanon. There, he started a small bar-bistro with his girlfriend, where they held a number of regular events for their customers. But Beirut had its own challenges, Basheer felt that he could not remain there permanently. His search for a new home that would offer him not only safety, but also long-term opportunities finally led him to Berlin in 2015.
He relates: “When I started on my journey to Europe, I had no idea what the future held. Once I arrived in Germany, I started wondering what my life would be like and how things would turn out. I thought about how I could make friends, build connections, and learn more about my host country…” Basheer then did what he loves most: taking pictures, and always greeting people with a smile. This led to many new friends, new projects, and a deeper knowledge of photography. Today, Basheer still loves discovering new places, meeting new people, and capturing the images he sees through the lens of his camera.
Early this year, Basheer relocated to Kandern, Germany, to take up the role of Roastery Manager at Uncharted Grounds. His camera is a constant companion while he seeks to learn more about coffee and perfect the roasting skills he learned years ago back home in Syria. He has fallen in love with this corner of Germany and is excited about making Uncharted Grounds a success – and hopes to help other newcomers like himself along the way.
Dawn found her way from the United States to Europe in her late twenties, after completing her studies at a private liberal arts college in Wisconsin. Through her work in the global pharmaceutical industry, travels around the globe, and a one-year stint in Finland, she discovered a passion for far-away lands, new cultures, and a heart for helping others.
Dawn now happily oversees operations at Uncharted Grounds in Kandern “where exciting things happen and no one day is ever like the other”. One of her greatest joys is to help her team develop and see them make their own way in Germany, the country they now call home. She is also looking forward to setting up new events at Uncharted Grounds that will speak to both newcomers and locals alike.
Over three years ago, Ahmed fled with his father from war-torn northern Iraq, hoping to make it to Europe where they could find work. The ongoing fighting had ravaged what was once a safe and fairly prosperous region, destroying homes and businesses, and making it difficult to feed hungry families and earn a living.
It took Ahmed and his father over three months to reach Germany, traveling through several countries on foot, over water, by bus and train. The journey was often difficult: food was not easy to come by, and conditions not always safe. Sometimes they would walk for miles without food and water, or were forced to be on the move at night.
Finally, they reached Karlsruhe, where they stayed for several weeks before being relocated to the southern Black Forest. After living for over two years in a camp, Ahmed and his father were eventually moved to a small apartment, where they now reside.
Ahmed is currently working to hone his barista and coffee roasting skills at Uncharted Grounds. He is also working to learn German, his third language. He enjoys meeting new people and sharing his knowledge of coffee with those who visit the Roastery. He hopes to stay on in Germany and build a new life for himself here.
Chris was born to German-American parents and has a deep love for both countries. He moved from where he was born in California with his family to Germany at a young age. After completing university and training in coffee for two years in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he decided to move back to Germany to work at his former high school. He has since completed two years as a residence assistant in a boys dormitory at Black Forest Academy.
Recently Chris has shifted his focus to supporting the integration of displaced peoples in Germany and has thus taken on a position at Uncharted Grounds. Chris has brought the café side of the business forward by teaching the team how to make excellent specialty coffee drinks and providing valuable suggestions for everyday operations. He also loves interacting with the team and supporting them in their German language and customer service skills.
Chris is excited about implementing several projects that will help to formalize and expand the training at Uncharted Grounds, which will help employees to be even better equipped to work in the “real world.”