Students help refugees to make a new start in Leicester

Every week, we showcase some of the fantastic work being done by our students to create positive change in our city and communities. Today we look at our volunteers at Leicester Race Equality Centre

Students at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) Square Mile project have been helping refugees in the city to learn new employability skills.

A group are volunteering with Leicester Race Equality Centre, a voluntary service which provides support, advice and information to asylum seekers and refugees.

race equality inset 1
The students are all part of DMU Square Mile, which works with organisations across Leicester to support projects that help people and communities.

Vinod Chudasama, Senior Race Equality Officer at the LREC, said the help of DMU’s volunteers was very important, especially as the service is now completely voluntary.

He said: “Every Wednesday, we have about five students from DMU who come for two hours. They work one-to-one with our clients, assessing their needs.

“They help them learn basic IT skills, put a CV together, understand how to download and upload files and gain keyboard proficiency.

“They also help clients understand what a job will entail and also the nature of the company with which they could be working. These things are difficult for people new to our culture and country to understand, not just because of the language barrier, but because of the customs and way that we operate and run businesses is quite different to what they know from life in their own countries. 

“LREC is a completely voluntary service now, so the help of DMU students is vital and very much appreciated.”

race equality inset 3

Husain Banafa, BA Accounting and Finance, said he had volunteered because he empathised with the people using the service.

The 20-year-old said: “I decided to volunteer because employers are looking for a full range of skills when you go for a job. So I wanted to supplement what I am learning at university with wider social skills. 

“It is difficult but I didn’t hesitate. I speak Arabic, which helps because most of the clients do too. I am an international student myself so I know what it means to come to the UK from another country so I feel I can really empathise and help many of these clients.”

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His twin brother Hasan Banafa, also on the same course, said it was a challenge to take the teaching right back to basics.

He said: “It’s really good to be able to help people who are searching for a job. When you help these students, you are doing what you can to help them get a better life. They need basic IT skills, like anyone, not only to do many jobs but even to apply for them.

“The majority of the clients who come here don’t know even the basics. Some people don’t know how the mouse works, let alone the software. So today we’re working through how Microsoft Word works, how to type and edit the text and create boxes and tables – it all helps when putting together a good CV.”

equality inset 2
Media and Communication BA (Hons) Abeer Khalis, 20, said she found the volunteering very satisfying.

She said: “I think volunteering here helps me to get along with and understand the community here in Leicester and I will become more confident in situations like this in the future.”

Abeer was working with Abdulnasser Ishag, 18, who has come to the UK from the Sudan.

He said: “I want to get a cleaning job, or to work in a shop. But it is difficult because I don’t understand how to use Google or send emails. So I have learned this with Abeer and this will make getting a job much easier.”

Also volunteering was Assica Devji, a 25-year-old Psychology BSc student. She said: “It is important to try and make a connection so I share some of my background, the clients some of theirs and it makes teaching and learning a little easier – it’s about developing trust.”

Posted on Friday 3rd June 2016

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