Mohammed* from Ethiopia came to the UK to escape political and ethnic persecution. After he was granted refugee status he moved to Birmingham where there were more people from his community and he was referred to Restore by the British Red Cross. Mohammed joined us for the launch session of Equipping Refugees for Work (ER4W) in March 2016, which provides interactive training topics on work related topics including CVs, interview skills, volunteering and job searching . He took up the opportunity of a practise interview and found that a helpful learning experience. Restore referred him to Suited for Success, a charity that provides interview clothes for those who are seeking employment. As well as attending ER4W 2016, he joined Restore for men’s activities, when there was not clash with his English classes or his own voluntary work. In the men’s group he could socialise with others and enjoy trips to the Think Tank, Pen Museum, a music concert at the Barber Institute for Fine Arts and a for leisurely cruise on a canal boat.
Mohammad applied for family reunion and his wife and 3 children were reunited with him in the UK in August. It was the first time he’d seen them for two years. Only a few days later the whole family joined a Restore family trip to Twin Lakes in Leicestershire to enjoy rides, animals and countryside. Even though it was summer, they were finding the UK rather chilly.
Mohammad had been a University lecturer and researcher at home and is very motivated to get into academic work in the UK. We matched him with a volunteer befriender who works at the University of Warwick. This has probably been the most helpful element of support provided by Restore. The specific expertise and assistance the befriender has been able to offer into university processes, systems and applications has been invaluable and hugely appreciated. Mohammad is exploring the possibility of a Masters degree in his academic field. This may require a move to another part of the UK and an additional phase of transition for the whole family.
In 2016, we had more people wanting to befriend than ever before, so we were able to provide a befriender for Mohammad’s wife, Hamida*. The volunteer has met Hamida at home and helped with her developing spoken English skills and in her adjustment to life in the UK.
Every refugee involved with Restore has a unique story and individual needs. Mohammed’s interaction with Restore gives one example of how the different services Restore offer can help in a refugee’s journey towards integration. Yet, it is often the befriending element of one-to-one support that has the most significant impact.
PS Since this story was written, Mohammad has received funding for a Master’s course in Glasgow. The family have moved ready for the course to start in September 2017. We will miss them but rejoice with them in this new opportunity.
*names have been changed