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Amina - finding meaning in helping others

15th Oct 2013

To watch Amina Abdi  in action in her classroom at Newport's Gap Centre, you'd think she'd been teaching for years. She has bags of confident  assurance as she puts the BME women in the group  through their paces  as they learn  English. Speaking the language is vital, of course - it makes all the difference between isolation  and inclusion for everyone.

But teaching is not Amina's chosen career and she had never done it before  last year when she took a five week course run by Swansea University in partnership with Oxfam Cymru's Sanctuary project.

"It had never crossed my mind I could be a teacher. When the course was suggested I thought 'that cannot be me!' but I did it and was surprised how I took to it. It was pretty intense, lessons in the morning and practical teaching in the afternoon."

Now Amina teaches every Thursday morning and she finds her role helps her keep motivated in her own tough situation. For 37-year-old Amina has been an asylum seeker ever since she left war-torn Somalia in 2008. Like so many others she is trapped in the limbo-land of infinitely slow Home Office decision making - can she stay and make a life here or must she return and take her chances? Meanwhile, she is barred from paid work and she and her three-year-old daughter Naema must live on a tiny subsistence allowance and live where they are told to.

"Helping these ladies makes me happy and gives my life some structure," she explains, adding that her accented English seems easier for her pupils to understand than native speakers - something to do with the vowel-sounds, perhaps!

Oxfam Cymru's partners in Newport are Displaced People in Action and the Bethel Church. They provide drop-in sessions, English classes and a crèche for women refugees and asylum seekers in the city, while supporting people to overcome the raft of problems they face as new and almost-citizens.

The Sanctuary project is supported by the Big Lottery Fund Wales.