Eiman Mirghani is a chemistry student, blogger, advocate for peace and New Scot. She arrived in Glasgow last year after being forced to flee her home in Sudan. Here, she blogs about how participating in Oxfam’s Future Skills project helped her gain confidence and settle into her new life in Scotland.
After arriving in Glasgow last summer, my first impression was of the people: of their genuine, spontaneous friendship and hospitality. I admired and envied their kindness and the generosity offered to newcomers, especially in times where humanity is demoralised by wars, injustice and man-made disasters.
In my experience, this welcoming attitude is also reflected by the Scottish Government who have stepped up to resettle refugees and lead integration initiatives, including helping people to access education and healthcare.
Charities too have a key role to play in welcoming refugees and helping people integrate. Through the Scottish Refugee Council I was introduced to Future Skills; a six-month training programme for women delivered by Oxfam Scotland. Future Skills aims to empower and support women as they learn new skills, build confidence and get work experience through training workshops, coaching and volunteer placements in Oxfam shops.
As a single parent on a low income, the main challenge I faced in joining the Future Skills programme was childcare; but with Oxfam’s financial help to cover nursery costs during my volunteer shifts and through the provision of a creche during workshops, I was able to fully participate.
For me, getting involved with Future Skills was a chance to integrate into my new community. Having never worked in customer services or sales before, volunteering in Oxfam’s shops gave me the opportunity to practice English and learn new skills including communication, teamwork, and budgeting. I really enjoyed it; I met people from different backgrounds, made friends and visited new places.
I also had access to individual coaching sessions provided by professionals. In these sessions, with the help of my coach, I was able to identify my priorities and focus on my goals. Receiving this motivation and guidance encouraged me to push through my doubts and fears and become more confident.
The programme also included a visit to the Scottish Parliament where we met Alison Johnstone MSP, who shared an inspiring story of how she became interested in politics through advocating for local communities. In turn, we told her about the challenges we faced and what we needed the Scottish Government to do to help us move forwards with our lives.
As a refugee, the Future Skills programme gave me vital experience. It also gave me a sense of direction and achievement. I’m so proud of the progress I’ve made; it’s such a great honour for me to be among the first group of graduates in Scotland.
As well as participating in Future Skills, through the Bridges Programme and the Maryhill Integration Network, I also learned more about the employability skills needed in Scotland and the steps I need to take to find a job.
I really don’t have the words to express my deep gratitude and appreciation for all of the kind support I received from everyone at Oxfam and from the staff at the other programmes. They made it possible for me to feel empowered to speak up about my experiences. In my experience, in Sudan, being a woman who speaks out comes at a high price: people do everything they can to silence you. Here in Scotland, I’ve rediscovered my voice – I’m now able to express myself freely and safely.
By the end of the six-month Future Skills programme I was motivated to get involved in charity work and projects aimed at tackling poverty. I recently joined Oxfam to take part in Scotland’s Poverty and Inequality Commission’s first public meeting.
I’ve learned about Oxfam’s work to eradicate poverty and to improve the lives of communities and individuals, but also of their work to tackle the complex causes of poverty. I strongly believe that two hands clapping will make a sound – will make people notice – so we should all join hands to clap together with Oxfam to help it fulfil its mission to end poverty.
During my time here, I’ve grown very fond of Glasgow and its people, its streets, and even its buskers. As a New Scot, I’ve been discovering all of the things that make this country special: as a poetry lover I’ve become enchanted by Robert Burns, and the views surrounding Loch Lomond have taken my breath away. I’ve yet to try the legendary haggis, neeps and tatties though!
When I look back to the day I first arrived at Glasgow; in a state of despair and devastation after being forced to abandon my life and family back home, I realise that I have learned a valuable lesson about compassion and generosity and how they magically transform lives and bring people together regardless of their differences.
This September I’m going to be taking on another exciting challenge as I start an access course at Glasgow University.
I hope my experience inspires other refugee women across Scotland to engage actively in their new communities instead of falling prey to isolation and vulnerability.
I feel so much joy in sharing my humble contribution to the community that embraced me with such great warmth. Scotland really is a great country where people from all background work together towards an optimistic vision of a peaceful and prosperous world.
Would you like to participate in our next Future Skills project? Or do you work with women who might? We’re recruiting now! Contact Suzanne Crimin for more details: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0141 285 8883 / 07826 953 240