I loved Khola Amir (38 years old) from the very beginning – she is such a fighter, a successful woman after a lot of hard work, and a real winner. With a masters in Fine Arts, she was a very good, awarded painting teacher in Pakistan, her native country. 12 years ago, she moved to Norway following her husband and started everything from scratch. She speaks about everything this meant sincerely – the loneliness, depression she had to fight with, the difficulties – adaptation to a new country is not an easy process, at all. Then her rebirth – the moment she started painting again, then giving painting lessons to children, selling her own paintings – creative or on demand. Today, she is a highly appreciated painting teacher in Stavanger-Sandnes area, collaborates with schools, has workshops and different events, has a wonderful family, helps her community a lot and she is very happy. But it took her years, hard work and huge ambition to get here. This is her beautiful, inspirational story. The story of a fighter and of a real winner.
It was 12 years ago that she first landed in Norway – following her husband, who was a student in Stavanger and then started to work as an engineer in oil field. “It was summer and it was so beautiful”, she remembers, as if it had been yesterday.
But the adaptation process was not easy at all.
She has a masters degree in Fine Arts and in Pakistan, her native country, she was a very good, awarded painting teacher. “I had two or three jobs at one time, I was a very good teacher, I arranged art exhibitions for children, I was preparing children for art competitions. At competitions, the first three prizes were for our schools and colleagues”, she says.
When she got no Norway, in 2007, it was a completely different world.
And it wasn’t easy. I understand her so well and I’m sure many expat women do – to start over in a completely new country and culture, having nothing, after performing in your native country, in your work. Not having your family, friends, knowing nobody. No, it’s not easy at all.
“I was so alone, no family members, my husband was working on rotation, I felt so lonely at home. There were no groceries around, I wasn’t used to use public transport”, she remembers. Depression came naturally – she has a painting that describes that feeling, that period.
First baby came, then the second. It was not easy to manage things, when her husband was not at home. And questions to herself came. “I was a teacher, a good teacher, an artist, I came here and I’m nothing” was just one her thoughts from those years. As I said, all this process might seem so easy from the outside, but it’s not – and not too many people realize what’s into your heart.
We all have turning points in our lives – and one of Khola’s was in the middle of one night. She just opened her paints and started painting again – she hadn’t done it for 6 years. It was spontaneous and a rebirth – like coming back home, you know. “When my husband came home he was so surprised when he had seen it. He said – you did this? It was the turning point of my life”, she says.
Then steps came naturally, one after another, with trust, perseverance and a lot of hard work. She first posted some announcements on social media – that she wants to teach children to paint. “And I received an email from a mother – show me your work. I had enough paintings to show her, she had seen and decided to send her daughters to me – it was October 2015, four years ago”, Khola remembers, smiling.
They were her first students. Their mother contacted her friends, one of her husband’s friends sent his daughter. She found a small room, in Sandnes, and started with 5 students and her 2 sons. Few days after, 2 more students came – that was her first group. It was like a blessing – she felt she was finally doing the right thing.
Things grew up step by step afterwards. “Few parents asked me why don’t you start on regular basis”, she remembers. It was quite expensive to rent a place – so lessons started at her home. “On Sunday, just on my dining table, in the living room”, she remembers, laughing. Then, she contacted British International School for an afterschool club – and she is doing this ever since. It’s an external club of painting, once a week. “It’s not my business – it’s my passion to do something”, she says.
Meantime, she contacted different places, to find something to rent. She found the place from Heddeveien 141 in Stavanger and started working – we’ve met there and it’s such a welcoming place, with children’s paintings all over. Khola offers after school classes, Sunday classes or school break camps, children work on acrylics paintings, projects of oil paintings, sketching&shading or pastel&water paintings. You can find her there, on British school, on different events or workshops. She taught in a Norwegian school, also. “Now few schools recognize me, and parents know me by my name – are you Khola Amir who’s taking classes? They know me with my name and for what I’m doing”, Khola says.
And just started her painting business, also – doing creative paintings or on demand, her own or what clients want.
Little by little, every dream came true. “When I paint or I teach children I’m happy, I’m feeling relaxed, I’m not feeling any stress, it’s my world”, she says.
Looking from the outside, as I said, it might seem easy – but it wasn’t. She had to adapt a whole new society. Learn a lot of new things. Took her driving license in Norway. Kept on fighting, learning and adapting every day.
“First thing that we have to realize is that we can do anything. I thought several times – why don’t I start something on my own? And my husband encouraged me a lot. When you think you can do anything you can – there are upside downs but if you think you can do it you will. I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression, everyone has that moment, when you realize you have to do something – either it’s negative or positive, that moment it’s your turning point”, she says.
You just have to follow your heart and do what you love – no matter what. You owe yourself this – at least to give it a try. “If you want to change something you can, you have to believe everything is possible, nothing is impossible, you need to give it a try. There are moments when you think you can’t – but you have to get over that. No one can help you in this except yourself, you can do it for yourself and have to believe in yourself”, she says.
12 years after that beautiful summer of her first landing, Norway is Khola’s home. But she never forgot where she left from – and she is trying to do good for the Pakistani community in the area. For children, she has free classes, tries to also teach them about their culture, history, civilization, children learn to perform in front of public, gain confidence, express themselves. “I feel happy with what I’m doing, and satisfied – that depression is gone. But it’s been difficult to stay alone – for me and my family, also”, Khola says.
PHOTOS FROM PERSONAL ARCHIVE
Do you know a very special person? Someone who has followed his dream, built it piece by piece, with passion, energy and lot of soul? An usual, simple person who did something in life, who you can identify with, who can be, for others, a source of inspiration? Tell me about that person and let’s tell the others his/her beautiful story. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, here, on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.