Ali Abo Nasser arrived in Germany as a refugee from Syria. He first worked as an intern at Freudenberg and then completed a work-study program. Today he is a service desk technician at Freudenberg.
There are moments that we will always remember because they irreversibly split our lives in two. They create a “before” and an “after.” Ali Abo Nasser, a service desk technician at Freudenberg, can talk about a fateful moment in that category. It was a Tuesday, July 28, 2015, at 6 a.m. The sun was just coming up.
A trafficker’s minibus stopped at an archway across from the University of Damascus. Abo Nasser had tears in his eyes. He set the bag down that his mother had packed for him the day before. Then he hugged his parents for the last time and boarded the bus. His destination: across the border, out of Syria, and out of his old life.
From Raqqa to Weinheim
The 26-year-old had been hiding out for four years, staying clear of combat troops in the war-torn country. Both sides – the Syrian army and the rebels – were claiming young men like him. His parents, disappearing in the distance through the rear window on that day, wanted to protect the young man, even as soldiers continued to harass them about his whereabouts. He would make it, but not without enduring months of privation during a dangerous migration to Germany.
The trip first took him, three sisters, a niece and a nephew to Aleppo, where the trafficker fled. Then, taking a dangerous detour through the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, the group made it to Turkey, and then on to Greece, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, and finally Germany, or more precisely to a refugee shelter in the hamlet of Affolterbach, near Weinheim. As a refugee, he had to hide from border police and slept many nights on the sides of roads. He also survived perils at sea in an inflatable dinghy. Today he can finally feel safe again.
Freudenberg exec as “godfather”
That was about seven years ago. On a recent day, the young man sat in an Egyptian snack bar near the Weinheim Industrial Park, singing the praises of the falafel on a plate before him. The dish reminded him of Sabinah, the Damascus suburb where he grew up. His home? “That’s wherever you feel at home. I’m at home here now,” he said, smiling and tracing a circle toward the ceiling with a finger. Since April of 2022, he, his wife and their small son have been German citizens. The family’s shared apartment is just a few kilometers away.
Abo Nasser has a positive attitude. He discussed what he has learned in life, the people who have helped him, and what he would like to give back. Many of these helpers have been Freudenberg employees, including Martin Monnheimer, Vice President, Sales Controlling at Freudenberg Sealing Technologies (FST). Abo Nasser pronounced him “my honorary godfather.” During his early days in Affolterbach, Monnheimer oriented him and helped him settle in. With his support, he learned German and worked as a supermarket cashier. The earnings helped pay for driver’s training and a license.
Allowed to dream
Through the window of the snack bar, a large Freudenberg sign was visible over the technology company’s headquarters. It reminded him of another crucial moment in his life: the moment when he allowed himself to dream again. “Every morning for a year, I stood here at the train station looking at the sign before heading to my German course at the University of Darmstadt,” he said. “I thought, someday I would like to work there.” That dream came true.
Life goes on – thanks in part to the many friends and supporters that I found here, whether at the training center, among colleagues or in management
Ali Abo Nasser
Arriving at Freudenberg
His internship application was accepted. He joined Freudenberg and attended additional German courses up to Level C1. Then the company offered him a contract for an IT work-study program. “That was December 1, 2017, my birthday,” said Abo Nasser, who had already studied computer science in Syria before the war. “It was the best gift I could have imagined.”
Since the successful completion of his training three years ago, Abo Nasser has worked as a service desk technician at Freudenberg. Unfortunately, he can no longer give his parents a hug. Both died of Covid 19 in 2021. “But they saw everything. We were in daily contact with one another virtually, and they were very proud of everything I accomplished,” he said. “Life goes on – thanks in part to the many friends and supporters that I found here, whether at the training center, among colleagues or in management,” he said. “It’s a good thing I found an employer who takes responsibility for society and values diversity.”
As a values-based technology company, Freudenberg has systematically trained more than 30 refugees, preparing them for the labor market of the future with a special focus on language training, among other subjects. In 2017, a program was launched with a vocational internship for anyone who was interested. It gave the interns basic manual skills and deepened their knowledge of German. Then the first training programs were launched. A total of 13 refugees are now trainees at Freudenberg.