I was 27 when I came to the UK from Pakistan in 1997, where I was granted asylum and subsequent refugee status. Soon after arriving, I was reunited with my parents. My father had migrated to the UK when I was younger, and I hadn’t realised. Unfortunately, I was faced with multiple challenges upon my arrival to the UK, as there was little support and guidance at this time. I struggled to access facilities such as colleges, local councils and GP surgeries and struggled to speak up or ask for help. Although I had graduated in Pakistan, I lacked confidence in communicating with others. I spoke minimal English and found there was little support available to help refugees and migrants integrate and find employment and volunteering opportunities in the UK.
I initially struggled finding employment as I spoke very minimal English, it was through watching children’s movies with my own children, that I started to learn English. After slowly and steadily building my confidence, I went to college and started to build on my employability skills by volunteering at local community organisation. I then gained my first role as a Key Support worker which then helped me to secure a job at The Growth Company in 2015. I’ve worked on many different schemes and programmes at GC, such as the Work Programme and the Restart Scheme. When the Growth Company won the bid to deliver REP across Yorkshire and the Humber, I was encouraged by my manager to apply for a role on the programme.
On the programme, I offer my colleagues translation support when meeting with service users who speak limited English. I can speak 4 community languages, these being Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi and Mirpuri. Having been a migrant myself, my background means that I have a deep understanding of the experiences faced by migrants and refugees and can offer personable support. When I meet participants, I share my own experiences with them to offer encouragement and show them that if I can overcome challenges, so can they. When they tell me that they are feeling better or that I’ve helped to resolve an issue, I am proud of the work that I have done.
I take a holistic approach when helping participants, not only offering employability advice, but often supporting with everyday tasks such as filling out GP applications and accessing foodbanks, housing and finance support. I also help participants to integrate within the community, by encouraging them to take part in courses and attend sessions at local community centres. I once supported a participant who was told she had to leave her home immediately, by accompanying her to a meeting with her local council, and even arranging a Halal food package for her.
I think what I find the most rewarding about my job is to see participants overcoming their fears and concerns and slowly building confidence, improving their skills and abilities, and enjoying their life, because of the support I have provided. I am determined and focused to help and support as many people as I can through REP, and it is incredibly important for me to highlight the support REP can offer. We are a flexible and accommodating team, ready and waiting to welcome individuals with kindness and understanding and to help in any way we can.