Background to Our Work

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.

Laamiga Annual Report 2018 

Annual Report 2016/2017

A view from the Chair

Anna Paynton, Laamiga chairperson


Laamiga is delighted to be publishing this annual report to coincide with International Women’s Day (IWD) an important opportunity to celebrate women.   A theme of IWD this year is Women in the Changing World of Work.  We all need today to adapt to rapidly changing technologies, and at Laamiga we have made supporting our mentees in using social media and communications a key theme this past year.  With a small grant from the Foundation of the global law firm Clifford Chance, we will shortly be able to launch our Step Up to IT computer literacy project, alongside our core mentoring programme.

And whilst funding conditions have been very challenging this year, the work of Laamiga has continued to bring positive outcomes and tangible differences, thanks primarily to the commitment and drive of Laamiga’s founder, Dr Emua Ali, as well as all our dedicated mentors.  The case stories on our website and the one in this report attest to our ongoing work. We also felt very proud that in 2016, a Camden Volunteer Award was given to one of our volunteer mentors and  Laamiga was also the runner up in the grassroots Community Integration Award (more of which below).

The dynamics of inequality and mass migration in our society today make Laamiga’s mission to support women from refugee and migrant communities as important as ever, and we are looking forward to continuing our work in the year ahead.

In this report you will find a mixture of information and articles about our work and the context in which we exist. We hope you will find it both informative and interesting.


Refugee Women, a global view – Anna Reisenberger, Laamiga trustee

Many of Laamiga’s mentees came to the UK as refugees. In 2015 over 7000 women and nearly 3000 girls made asylum claims in the UK (over a quarter of the total claims that year).   Where the women and girls were the main claimants about a third were granted asylum. Worldwide they made up 47% of refugees.

Last year there were 65 million refugees and forcibly displaced people worldwide, the largest figure ever, and over a million asylum seekers in Europe. In the year ending September 2016 the UK had 41 thousand asylum seekers, the 6th highest number within the EU, compared with 781 thousand in Germany, 112 thousand in Sweden and 108 thousand in Italy. At 2.5 million Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees in the world.

But figures themselves do not show the long term challenges faced by refugees once they have reached a place of safety. The length of time waiting for a decision from the Home Office, fear of detention or being made destitute, feeling isolated, living with intense uncertainty and being separated from family members: all these stresses and strains can cause women mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. The trauma that women have experienced in their own country or in the process of fleeing, such as torture and rape, can lead to long term illnesses. Even women who have not suffered in this way and may have been granted refugee status have to adapt to a different culture, to learn sufficient English, and to find their way round the benefits, education and employment systems. Given a helping hand, most go on to integrate well, and their children often succeed well above expectations.

Laamiga helps women who have been granted asylum and other BME women, to integrate and become more financially independent. We focus on helping women who are thinking about getting back to learning, getting a job or setting up their own small business. We recognise that this is not a straightforward process, and our 1-1 mentoring means that we can help women to deal with the range of personal challenges each faces.


Names have been changed in the case studies below to protect identities.

Case Study: Nadia and Aaliyah

Nadia has three children, all of primary school age. She left her country after it was torn apart by civil war. After spending some years raising her young children she decided she was now ready to pursue employment.

Nadia was matched with her mentee Aaliyah who is a solicitor. Nadia and Aaliyah meet once a fortnight at a coffee shop. Since beginning mentoring Nadia has taken English lessons to improve her written and spoken communication skills and has passed her driving theory test. In addition she has updated her CV and is now beginning to apply for jobs, and she is taking steps to prepare for her practical driving test.

Through the building of trust over a number of months, Nadia and Aaliyah’s mentee/mentor relationship has grown from strength to strength. Aaliyah also greatly enjoys mentoring as a means of being able to give something back to the community.

Case Study: Brigitte and Carmen

Brigitte is a single mother in her early 30s, with 2 young children. They fled from conflict in Africa and gained refugee status in the UK in 2010. She learnt about Laamiga through a friend who had found Laamiga’s support and advice of great benefit. In 2012 Carmen met Brigitte, who was studying an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Nursing. She lacked confidence that she could achieve her goals, given that her written and spoken English were quite poor.

Carmen realised that, aside from a few housing and  healthcare issues, she could give Brigitte most help with note-taking, basic research, essay-writing and improving her spoken English. Once every fortnight they met at Brigitte’s home to work on writing and basic computing. Carmen was happy to extend the mentoring to lessons by phone – an hour a week in the evenings. Brigitte read aloud health-related articles Carmen had found online. Gradually more difficult articles were selected, each session ending with Carmen asking questions about it. She also explained how the authors put forward arguments, structured articles and used English to convey emotion and meaning. Much later Carmen discovered that Brigitte’s eagerness to improve her English stemmed from the day when her son returned from school with the “The Gruffalo” to read. She was highly embarrassed when she could not pronounce the title and was corrected by her seven-year-old!

Brigitte’s was an extremely quick learner, progressing well in her written English. Her grades crept up, increasing her self-belief. Carmen helped Brigitte pass the interview to enter the second year where she achieved several Merits.

As Brigitte’s confidence grew, the need for Carmen’s help reduced. Brigitte would ask for advice but take action herself. By March 2013, Brigitte and her children moved into their new council house, a better, cleaner and safer home, resolving stressful issues with her previous landlord. Brigitte was invited to attend interviews from four out of her five university choices. She entered an undergraduate course in Social Care, aiming to study Adult Nursing after her degree.

Carmen took a year off to work in the Middle East, mentoring Brigitte again on her return. Carmen felt guilty at having left her with another mentor in her first year, but was delighted to hear how she had tackled the challenges she faced. The mentoring now changed from basic issues to research methods, writing dissertations and presentation skills.

Carmen is extremely proud of Brigitte, now in her final year. Her grades are mostly above average and she faces challenges with strength and conviction. She has grown from a meek, vulnerable person who had no confidence, into a woman who has clear goals in her life and career; confident and strong, and not shy about questioning Carmen’s ideas. It is rewarding to see that Brigitte has finally discovered what great potential she has.

Both children are doing well educationally and they live in a safe permanent home. Brigitte has shown great resilience, courage and dignity over some difficult years and her success is purely based on her own efforts and dedication. Carmen feels proud to have been her mentor, and gains great satisfaction knowing that by giving up some of her own time and providing guidance, she has helped a person to become such a strong and independent individual, offering them the chance to have a good and successful future.

Laamiga’s mission is to help women, such as Brigitte, to “unleash creativity and skills, and as a result, gain greater financial independence”. Brigitte is well on her way to achieving this, and once again, Laamiga has succeeded in their mission.


Stress Management workshop

With many mentees describing stress as a key issue for them, in December 2016, Laamiga organised Nardia Foster, a chartered psychologist, to run a Stress Management workshop for its mentors and mentees. The aim was to help participants understand why stress needs to be managed and why it is important to set aside time for ourselves.

The group first looked at how to recognise stress in ourselves and then discussed how it can affect us not only in the short term but also the long term. The session ended with a relaxation session that everyone enjoyed.

The feedback was very appreciative with feedback such as “Very useful” and “Very interested, and I wish to learn more and more”. Overall it was a very positive and informative session

Knitting circles


Led by our trustee, Liz Baltesz, Laamiga hosts regular knitting sessions, with free wool and plentiful knitting tips. These are not only practical workshops, but also allow mentor-mentee pairs to meet others and socialise in a more informal setting. English is practiced, ideas and information is exchanged and confidence grows.

Highbury Fields Bring and Share Picnic


Laamiga organises events to bring together its community of mentees, mentors and volunteers.  Events include community visits to the British Museum and picnics on Highbury Fields.

Awards and Achievements

Community Integration Awards


Laamiga was shortlisted for a Community Integration Award in 2016. We were named as one of the Inspiring Grassroots organisations and were commended for being “exciting and innovative,” and came “a very close second” to the winner, the Mayhill Integration Network in Glasgow.

Migrationwork Trust launched the awards in 2016 to encourage local host communities to be more accepting of, and engaged with, migrant communities, so that integration can benefit both sides. Both Laamiga’s one-to-one relationships between mentors and mentees, and our partnerships with the local community organisations foster such integration. You can see Laamiga’s blog, highlighting our knitting circle as one example of our good practice, on their website:

Camden’s Volunteer Award 2016


In September 2016 our volunteer mentor Pauline, was recognised by the Volunteer Centre Camden, for her five years of support for her mentee from the start of an Access to University course, through to her 2016 graduation from London Metropolitan University with an upper second class degree in Social Care. Pauline had assisted her mentee on her journey from gaining confidence to learning English through to mastering the art of research and study and finally to the award of her degree.


We attended Volunteer Fairs, coffee mornings, conferences, Open Days and meetings to talk to women who wanted to become volunteer mentors and mentees.  We know the key is to start the conversation and see where it can lead to.  We spoke to refugee women who were professionals like Doctors, Teachers, Architects and Business Owners in their own countries. However with the need to learn English and/or re-qualify and the cost this can involve, most have lost their status and titles.   For some Laamiga can be the starting point to finding their confidence and starting again.


Laamiga has sought out and worked in collaboration with other local organisations with mutual objectives. In the past year these include Volunteer Centre Camden who have provided us with corporate IT support, and helped us to find mentors, as well as connecting our Coordinator with peer support through their Volunteer Managers’ Forums. The Arabic and Tigrinya Speaking Women’s Organisation have provided us with mentees for the Group Mentoring sessions and hosted our monthly Drop in and Knitting sessions in Finsbury Park. The Islington BAMER Women’s Network have organised conferences, training sessions and International Women’s Day events for our mentors and mentees.

We will run a computer literacy course with Training Link “Step Up to IT” starting in May 2017.  City and Islington College have also provided us with mentees and space to run volunteer mentor training. London Metropolitan University – have given us mentors and mentees. We have also run workshops for students at Queen Mary University of London Women Working in Law society. Our partners generously share their resources, and together we deliver our key objectives to improve the skills and employment opportunities of women from disadvantaged communities in London.

Finances- Charlene Wilson, Treasurer

2016 was a difficult year for Laamiga from a fundraising perspective. Our income in the year was only £2k.  Our funding from the Big Lottery came to an end and we had a number of unsuccessful grant bids.   This is why we are so thankful for the support that we received from the Mildred Duveen Trust and individuals, most of whom made regular monthly donations, and who provided 53% of income received in the year. This shows that every donation however small really does help.

As you can see from our achievements in the year, we have continued to strive and do the work that we believe in.  We could not have done this without the many volunteers who give us their valuable time, helping women to achieve their goals.

Although 2016 may have been difficult financially, 2017 is off to a great start with funds having been secured from the Clifford Chance Foundation. However it is only a small fraction of the money needed for us to provide the services that are so desperately needed by refugee and immigrant women.  Therefore, if you currently support us, we like to say thank you and if you would like to start supporting us please visit: or email us at for more information.

Social media strategy


By social media volunteer Laura

As a migrant myself coming to the UK in search of job opportunities, I felt that I could contribute to Laamiga’s mission. New in this country, it wasn’t easy for me to find a job that suited, that at the same time enabled me to enhance my skills and competences, and once I succeeded in this, I wanted to help other women find more meaningful employment.

During my volunteering experience with Laamiga I have had the chance to meet its great team of mentors, mentees trustees and volunteers and to take part in interesting events, to learn about their practices and about the mentees’ experiences of the mentoring programme. As my awareness of Lammiga’s activities developed, I started to plan a social media policy that could fit it, both as a charity and as an organisation that needed to promote itself.

Our social media policy aims to achieve the following objectives:

  • Improve the organisation’s visibility, and promote its activities
  • Express the organisation’s values and culture, with posts that meet Laamiga’s objectives.
  • Identify the characteristics and interests of current and prospective audiences.

There are a number of benefits for the organisation in structuring a sensible social media policy, including:

  • Raising awareness and promoting donations
  • Mobilising Laamiga’s community
  • Encouraging partnerships with organisations working on similar or related issues


Group Mentoring by volunteer facilitator, Anne Lapping

Group mentoring is run on a Saturday morning in partnership with the Arabic and Tigrinya Speaking Women’s Organisation. For more information contact Emua at or telephone 0208 257 7317.

What should group mentoring be about, particularly when the African and Middle Eastern women who gather on Saturday mornings are so diverse in age, interests and ease in English? Having a strong group leader helps. The key is to devote a lot of time to what participants say they want. But it is also valuable to offer links to what is going on in the world now, from the American election to the housing question. This subject led to personal stories and practical interchanges about how to deal with council officials. We have also talked about cancer (shock, reluctance and finally conversation); Seretse Khama and Botswana history (politics and a good love story, and marrying outside the community); Brexit (immigration and what it feels like to be an immigrant).

You can never tell how a discussion will flow. I was surprised the group’s leader had asked me to talk about social benefits and the welfare system. If the birth of the Welfare State is a heartening story it is also quite complicated and the benefits system is an ever-changing nightmare. I was game to have a go. Because the history of the Welfare State is not something you can pop into the middle of and understand, we decided to wait for the latecomers. Then we decided to do something else while we waited. What we did was roast a chicken. Not actually, which was pity because the recipes we talked about were mouth-watering. We started with one of the older ladies. It was a lengthy process. I asked the question. It was translated. A shy answer came back. It was translated for my benefit. I pushed for ingredients. They emerged by the same process. We built up a vocabulary. And I cajoled the cook into putting all the words together into a recipe in English. I was privately thrilled when the group leader said that was the longest speech in English the cook had ever made.

Gradually other members of the group arrived, including some of the better linguists. I offered to start on the introduction to the post-war welfare state on the understanding that I might have to do a quick reprise next time. There were a few questions and some more translating and we had just about time to introduce Beveridge, the post-war Labour government and the health service. So it turned out to be a morning with two themes –with a bit of English conversation and bit of British history and culture, or what the government might call values. Mentoring, especially with a group, just has to be flexible.

I end with two wishes. I wish there were more English classes especially for older people so they do not get put off by younger students; and I wish I could get members of the group to go to the cinema. It could be an entertaining way to learn more of the language and (e.g. “I Daniel Blake”) more about Britain.


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

Benefit concert


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.


facebook like

Click here to donate