Areej Osman has been both a guest, and a volunteer, for Refugees at Home. She spoke to Forbes about her experiences coming to the UK, how we helped her, and the work she now does to give back.
You can read the full interview with Emma Zangs on Forbes’ website, or reproduced below…
Areej Osman is from Khartoum in Sudan, she is 31 and was a teacher before coming to England. I met Areej for the first time at The Abbey Centre, a charity helping women immigrants and refugees find work through training, courses and general support. Areej inspired me by her resilience and determination to slowly build a new life in the U.K.
Emma Zangs: When did you arrive in the U.K. and what was it like for you at beginning?
Areej Osman: I arrived in the U.K. in 2015 as an asylum seeker. I was placed in Birmingham and Darby while I was waiting for my application to be processed. Once I got my papers, I had 28 days to leave where I was, find a job, find a place to live. I moved to London as I knew a few people there and the Sudanese community is larger. In Sudanese culture the community is very tight so I got to meet friends of friends. But at the beginning, I was homeless. I was relying on a friend’s sofa, staying on buses and not knowing what tomorrow would be made of.
EZ: How did you come out of homelessness and find a job?
AO: When I was homeless, I put myself forward at the Westminster City Council to make a census of homeless people in the borough at night. There I was paired with another volunteer who was shocked when I told her I was homeless. She mentioned Refugees At Home and very quickly the organisation helped me find a temporary place. Having my own place gave me the ground to plan my future. I knew where I would sleep everyday so I could relax and think about what I wanted to do. I registered to the Interpreting Course at The Abbey Centre and that helped me to start working as an interpreter.
EZ: What are you doing at the moment?
AO: I work part-time as an interpreter. Then I volunteer 2 days a week for Refugees at Home and Migrant Voice. Refugees at Home helped me when I was destitute so I want to give back and I want the organisation to keep helping people like me. Some landlords do not like refugees on housing benefits but I am lucky to find an understanding landlord and very supportive housemates. It allows me to peacefully take every day as it comes and not pressure myself. Obviously I am thinking about my next steps, like having a place on my own and a job that fulfills me. In Sudan, I completed my yoga teacher training and I miss practicing it a lot. I think it would help me on many areas of my life and one of my dream would be to teach yoga again.
Emma Zangs: What are the things that helped you along the way? What would you tell refugees that are in the situation you were once in?
- Being Proactive & Give Back. I was going to organisations and saying yes to tasks so I was not too bored. I will not stop volunteering once I have my own place and settled in a job I want.
- Surround Yourself with a Community. I would have never heard of Refugees At Home if it wasn’t for volunteering for Westminster Council. The Community does not have to be from the same culture as yours but it can help to feel supported, speak the same language and have the same habits.
- Never Give Up. I always tell myself that ‘I can do it’. It is hard at times as I miss my family, my friends, I miss my country, I miss the Sudanese community but I am not discouraged. Even though I am in unknown territory, I think there is opportunities here for me to live a fair and free life.
Angela Duckworth, in her book Grit, describes people on the high scale of grit as ‘ having a deep and abiding interest, a ready appetite for constant challenge, an evolved sense of purpose, and buoyant confidence in the ability to keep going that no adversity could sink.’
Areej illustrates grit with such grace and drive. She knows that where she is now is a necessary step to settle, without rushing her plan for the future. She is extremely grateful for all the people who helped her on the way, especially to her flatmates who have been a major influence in her ability to settle in the country.
Here is a cheeky ask. If you are a yoga studio that would love to support Areej in her journey by helping her get back to teaching yoga, please do get in touch.