London, Asharq Al-Awsat- When meeting Feras Al Moubayed, it is easy to grasp the daily challenges he faces when communicating with others.
However, this young Syrian man does not let anything stand in his way.
He communicates in a semi-ordinary manner despite the obstacles that he faces due to his hearing impairment, while sometimes even excelling in overcoming these obstacles in an extraordinary manner.
For example, he can lip read well enough to decipher a conversation between a couple that is seated at the table opposite him in a restaurant, and is able to tell if they are having a good time or an argument.
Al Moubayed smiles and tells us that when he sees a girl he likes from a distance, he lip reads the conversation she is having with someone else and would then spark up a conversation with her based on the topic she was discussing; like her favourite holiday destination or the last film that she watched. “This works all the time,” says Al Moubayed, laughing.
Feras, 38, wears a discreet hearing aid to help him distinguish sound, and despite the difficulties he faces speaking, he insists on communicating with his surroundings regardless.
His fighting spirit and love of life led to him becoming the first hearing-impaired individual to graduate from Liverpool John Moores University, where he obtained a degree in Fashion Design in 1993. He has since worked with prominent brands, including Armani and DKNY, and at London’s world-renowned department store, Harrods.
Feras also went on to try his hand at acting and was featured in a BBC production entitled ‘Switch,’ where he portrayed the role of a 30-year-old deaf man with marital problems. He also starred in a Channel 4 drama production.
Building on his 12 years of experience gained in the fashion industry, which involved working with stars such as David Beckham, Robbie Williams and Pierce Brosnan; Feras recently left his job at Harrods and has embark on his very own fashion venture.
However, despite this young man’s passion for fashion and his successes that have afforded him the means to buy a house in an affluent part of London and a respectable living, Feras still has some concerns.
He feels that he does not do enough to help others who suffer from hearing and speech impairments, particularly in the Arab world.
While driving his BMW sports car, Al Moubayed tries to explain how lucky he feels about having been sent to London as a child to study by his parents. This, he believes, provided him with an excellent education and is the reason behind his success. Because of that, he prays for his parents whenever he can especially since they sacrificed a great deal to secure a future for him and his younger brother Wael, who also suffers from hearing loss.
Feras promised to take care of Wael following the death of their father in 1995 after a battle with Leukaemia.
Al Moubayed was born in Kuwait in 1970, and was sent to the UK in 1982 after his parents gave up hope that their son would regain his hearing ability, which he lost at the age of two.
In the UK, Al Moubayed stayed with an English family that took him in and helped him; he also interacted with other pupils for the first time at school.
He recalls that that experience was difficult in the beginning, as he missed his family and struggled with language barriers, as his mother tongue was Arabic not English.
Nevertheless, he wanted to make his family proud and worked with specialists to develop his communication skills.
Feras explains that he feels that life has been good to him despite the lack of some essential abilities that others might take for granted. Because of this he frequently travels to his homeland, Syria, and believes that more can be done there and in the Arab world in general.
His main target is to increase awareness in Arab societies about hearing loss and to promote the idea that people with hearing impairments can serve as active, effective, as well as creative, members of society.
Feras considers the isolation of the deaf the biggest mistake that is committed. In this regard, Al Moubayed intends to found a charitable institution to help deaf children in Syria. He has begun by inviting friends and concerned parties to attend a weekly lecture on sign language that he gives every Sunday at noon. There is no charge to attend these lectures as he believes that the best reward would be the increase of awareness amongst people on the obstacles that the deaf and hard of hearing face in their daily lives. Feras hopes that one day he could return to Syria to spread the message amongst individuals with special needs that life can be beautiful… despite the great challenges that they face.