A journey that began in Afghanistan almost 10 years ago culminated with student Zaky Jabar receiving British citizenship at a special ceremony in Oakham.
Zaky, 23, was forced to leave Afghanistan in 2008 after an explosion destroyed his family home.
Separated from his parents and siblings, Zaky travelled to the UK aged just 15 and was found foster care by Rutland County Council.
Although he could not speak or read English at the time, Zaky was determined to succeed and enrolled at a local college near his foster home.
With support, his confidence grew and he took GCSEs in maths, chemistry, biology and English. He went on to achieve A*s in his exams and was the top pupil in his college year. He was also nominated for the Lord Lieutenant’s Award in March 2010.
After college, Zaky enrolled at De Montfort University to study pharmacy. Having successfully completed his degree, he is now looking forward to postgraduate training in Nottinghamshire.
Joy Donlan is a Leaving Care Worker for Rutland County Council and has supported Zaky since he first arrived in the UK.
She said: “When Zaky first got to this country he was traumatised and scared.
“Watching him grow up and make a life for himself has been hugely rewarding and everyone at the council who has worked with him is incredibly proud of what he has achieved. He’s worked so hard and has a fantastic future ahead of him.”
The citizenship ceremony, which took place on March 2, is the final step for those wishing to become British citizens.
Speaking after his ceremony, which was attended by the Lord Lieutenant of Rutland Dr Laurence Howard, Zaky said: “I’m so happy to have British citizenship because now I feel like I’m part of this country.
“I have a big responsibility because I had loads of help when I needed it and I think it’s time for me to give something back. Rutland is small but the people have big hearts. I think that’s what makes it a special place. Honestly, the whole of the United Kingdom is a great place to live.
“I feel very lucky that I met Joy and have got loads of help from her. She’s always been there for me no matter what and is more than a social worker.
“She’s been a friend, a social worker, family; all those things. I’ll never forget what she’s done for me.”
Portfolio holder for children and young people Richard Clifton said: “Zaky has had to overcome a great deal to be where he is today. His determination, hard work and strength of character are an inspiration and I have no doubt that he will go on to succeed in his postgraduate studies and chosen career.
“People may not be aware of the role the council plays when it comes to caring for children and young people but it is undoubtedly one of the most important things we do.
“We currently support 33 children who are unable to live with their own families and would not otherwise receive the care they need. We also support 23 care leavers – young people who have left our care but continue to receive assistance with their education, accommodation, finances and personal support.
“It’s incredibly rewarding for all concerned when a young person in our care goes on to succeed as Zaky has done.”