Our research has shown that women from refugee and migrant communities have a lot of talent, skills and knowledge. However, due to cultural, linguistic and religious factors they are often unable to find suitable employment and end up in manual, low paid occupations, e.g. cleaning and hotel work.
These women are often grappling with basic survival needs, e.g. housing and food, and are unable to invest time on acquiring new skills to advance their livelihood and reach their full potential. This is where our mentors can help.
Our research also shows that some refugee and migrant women have developed extremely successful businesses and achieved satisfying careers, demonstrating the value that they can bring to society if given the opportunity.
Laamiga aims to act as a bridge between the needs of these women and satisfying work.
Annual Report 2015/2016
A view from the Chair
This year Laamiga celebrates its sixth anniversary since launching in Camden in 2010. We have made much progress in recent years and are extremely proud of our achievements in helping minority women realise their potential through mentoring and training. As a small charity, our uniqueness lies in our programme to match mentors and mentees and this is generating some heart-warming success stories. A few are highlighted as case studies in this annual report, with mentees testifying to increased confidence, acquiring language skills and gaining useful tips on CV-writing, job searches and interview skills. None of this would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of Laamiga’s founder, Dr Emua Ali, and the board of trustees extend our gratitude for the way she has applied her wisdom, determination and positive outlook in ensuring the success of our organisation.
– Amanda Couper, Laamiga chairperson
Fundraising and Events
On Saturday 10 October 2015, The Galliard Trio, playing the oboe, bassoon, flute and piano, performed a second benefit concert in aid of Laamiga. The programme included Bach, Debussy and modern classics in the beautiful setting of St James’ Church in Islington, with the support of Father John Burniston. The audience was introduced to a few mentors and mentees, and a special award was given to outstanding mentor of the year Janet Whelan in memory of our inspirational colleague and trustee Susie Parsons, who died in 2015. The evening ended with a delicious buffet and the event raised £636.
Mindfulness taster session
Mentors and mentees participated in a free one-hour introduction to Mindfulness in March 2016. Qualified teachers Carol Wilkins and Uz Afzal explained why they believe the practice of mindfulness can help to create a better, kinder world for all. With a focus on breathing, participants were given tips on how to strengthen inner confidence. The event concluded with knitting, conversation and shared food.
Judith Evans, Heather Chapman, Liz Baltesz Drop in/Knitting circles
Led by volunteers Judith Evans, Liz Baltesz and Heather Chapman, Laamiga hosts regular drop in/knitting sessions, with free wool, needles and plentiful knitting tips. These are not only practical workshops, but also allow mentor-mentee pairs to meet others and socialise in an informal setting. The drop in sessions are a great place for new volunteers, potential mentors and mentees to find out about Laamiga’s activities and meet members.
Successes and challenges
In the past year, we have recruited several new mentors – women from a range of backgrounds and ages who are keen to work with and support women from minority communities to build their social, practical and business skills. Mentors undergo rigorous training, are vetted to ensure suitable pairings with mentees and receive on-going supervision to ensure their continuous professional development. The recruitment of mentors and volunteers has been very successful in the past 12 months, with a total of 30 volunteers offering their services. Perhaps understandably, it has proven to be harder to attract and retain large numbers of mentees: our services are aimed at those very women who are often difficult to reach. The challenge in the coming year will be to find new ways to identify, contact and attract more mentees, including outreach programmes and integrated communication efforts.
A few of Laamiga’s mentors run group sessions for women who cannot commit to one-to-one mentoring support due to their personal circumstances. We have partnered with the Arabic and Tigrinya speaking women’s group, which meets on Saturdays; and our mentors provide workshops on job search skills, assertiveness and functional English.
Partnership with Queen Mary’s University
Towards the end of 2015, Laamiga teamed up with Queen Mary University’s Women in Law society to expand our reach in the student community. With the help of Laamiga mentors, we hosted a career event with the dual purpose of helping students in their job-hunting and introducing our mentoring scheme, resulting in the recruitment of two mentees. The association with the university has opened doors to other clubs and societies, as well as other universities. Laamiga has been invited to an event focused on women in politics, organised by the London School of Economics. With the success of our initial approach, we aim to expand Laamiga’s activities to other societies and universities. We also work closely with City and Islington College, London Metropolitan University and Westminster University to recruit mentees and run workshops.
Finances: donations, fundraising and grants
Laamiga received a total of £8,970 in grants, donations and fundraising for our mentoring activities and training in 2015 – a slight decline on the £9,065 raised in 2014. This includes £4,167 awarded by the Big Lottery Fund, down from the previous year’s £5,833. We are also grateful for a £1,000 contribution from the Mildred Duveen Charitable Trust, and £3,167 in general donations, while the second annual benefit concert raised £636, compared with £985 in 2014.
Laamiga’s real impact: recent case studies
Neda and Katie
Neda was only six when she and her uncle fled her native Eritrea 15 years ago, and since then she has lived an unsettled life, moving from Sudan, to Turkey and then Greece and a spell in France before eventually reaching the UK in 2013. Now 21, she speaks six languages, including Arabic and Greek, and her eyes light up when asked what she gained most from her mentor Katie: learning to speak English and ‘not being so nervous’. She is currently on an English course at the City of Westminster College and is determined to one day become a nurse. She has a close relationship with Katie, who is 28, and the pair have also worked on improving Neda’s computer skills. Belfast-born Katie says Neda initially found her accent tricky, but adds with a smile: “Neda is now fluent in Northern Irish.”
Fatima and Amina
Fatima came to the UK from a war-torn country, after she had lost her husband and feared for her life. She came to the UK looking for safety and for an opportunity to rebuild her life. Her asylum case had been dragging on for years with no definitive answer. When Fatima was matched with Amina – who speaks the same language – her morale was low and she had difficulty communicating in English. During the first months, the pair met every week to build a strong relationship. Amina helped Fatima to pinpoint her critical needs, focused on rebuilding her confidence, increase her emotional and psychological strength and create a support network.
Quickly Fatima started reconnecting with the strong and independent with the strong and independent woman she was before she had to flee her country. She increased the frequency of her English classes and took any free classes she could. She joined an organisation providing psychological support to women and became more involved in her asylum case, even contacting her MP for support with the help of Amina.
The last 6 months have been a transformational experience for both Fatima and Amina. Fatima was able to regain her confidence, focus and be in charge of her case and for Amina it was a steep learning curve to increase her listening skills and knowledge on asylum to support Fatima. The relationship continues, and the next step is to help Fatima apply and find a job.
Nadia and Emily
Nadia moved to the UK when she was 16, and spent the next 18 years raising her three children and adjusting to life in the UK. Ready to try something new, she had started an NVQ Level 3 in childcare. However, the high level of English language skills required to complete the written coursework were proving challenging. Nadia was referred to Laamiga and matched with Emily.
They met every other week at Nadia’s home where she would talk though her struggles with the coursework, which Emily would try to explain in a different way. Through this process Nadia’s confidence in reading and writing English improved, and Emily learnt a lot about caring for children. At the end of the year she passed her NVQ. They also worked together to develop a strong CV and to practice interview skills. Nadia has now found a job as a care assistant near to her home and is volunteering in her daughter’s primary school with a view to working in a nearby school soon.
Sarah and Emiko
Sarah is a single woman from Eritrea who has been living in London for several years. Over the past decade, she has had short term jobs including at a take-away store, at a farmers market and at a grocery store and voluntary work at an adult care centre. However, more recently she has not had any employment other than an evening office cleaning job. She had started to feel under-confident and this was made worse by her health problems. Sarah was paired with Emiko, a lawyer working with a corporate law firm. Sarah wanted to return to the catering industry and Emiko worked with her on her CV and on improving Sarah’s computer and internet skills, including searching for jobs online. Over this time period, Sarah and Emiko developed a bond, discussing Sarah’s progress in a holistic way, including management of health issues and housing. Sarah then heard of an agency looking for interpreters. They spent a session preparing for the interview and Sarah got the job providing interpretation services for underprivileged children and refugee families. She continues in this job, balancing it with her regular office cleaning job in the evenings. She hopes to get a diploma in interpretation, which will enable her to get a more permanent job, possibly as a social worker.