South Asian Heritage Month: the refugee doctor who came to Britain with £100 in his pocket

A school boy who fled war in Afghanistan aged just 15 is hoping his story of how he became a frontline NHS doctor will help others understand the realities of conflict and why people flee.

Dr Waheed Arian came to Britain with no family support, little education and only $100.

But, thanks to the "kindness and compassion" of the British people he eventually became an NHS doctor in Chester - most recently serving on the frontlines of the Covid pandemic.

He has now written a memoir, In the Wars, where he details his inspirational journey of fleeing conflict, living in refugee camps, studying in cellars whilst bombing descended on his home and his journey to the UK.

Dr Waheed's story comes as the country marks South Asian Heritage Month - celebrating the contributions South Asians have made to Britain, as well as its culture, food, history and traditions.

The four-week event runs from 18 July to 17 August.

Dr Waheed and his family fled to Pakistan as refugees where the family of 10 lived in a muddy room in a refugee camp.

Dr Waheed was born in 1983 during the Afghan Soviet conflict. His family spent the first five years hiding from rockets, bombs and shelling.

His family then fled to Pakistan, where they lived in a single muddy room - with temperatures often rising as high as 45C.

He said: "As a family of ten we were living in one muddy room with temperatures rising as high as 45 degrees and I contracted tuberculosis.

"It was during that treatment that I was inspired to become a doctor when the doctor that treated me gave me a stethoscope and a black and white textbook to play with.

"I saw first hand the power of healing. It inspired me - I wanted to do something."

When Dr Waheed arrived in the UK he says he had a hope for safety, and the dream to be a doctor.

Dr Waheed says despite suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder the dream to "give back to my family, to my community and to the world" pushed him on.

He took on jobs as a salesman, cleaner and kitchen porter to fund his education, and, after studying hard at night, he managed to get the grades he needed to get into Cambridge University, Imperial College London and Harvard.

He eventually fulfilled his dream and became a doctor in 2010.

In 2015 Dr Waheed founded charity Arian Teleheal, connecting medical experts in the UK to those across the world in countries like Afghanistan.

The aim is to exchange medical expertise on smartphones.

He says writing his memoir was an act of healing, allowing him to process the trauma he experienced as a child.

He added: "The messages I would like people to take from my book is to understand the reality of conflict and what people go through and why they flee, to find inspiration in the darkest moments of our lives, the power of not giving up on hopes and dreams despite facing adversities and finally to let people know that giving can heal ourselves and society as well and if we all come together, we can do a lot of good in the world."