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Black History Month – “I would say my greatest achievement is being able to help others”

Fluent in almost four languages, Henok has been volunteering at RMC for four months after initially coming to the charity as a client. He plays a crucial role supporting the immigration case workers to communicate with the charity’s clients.

Alongside English – which I am still learning and improving my confidence with – I am fluent in Arabic, Amharic (the official language of Ethiopia) and a little bit of Tigrinya (a language mainly used in Eritrea). So my job is to translate for RMC’s clients who speak those languages and who do not know English.

Often the people I’m translating for are in very vulnerable situations. They’ve usually sought safety here from war and could even still be waiting for a decision on whether the Government will allow them to stay here. They’ll have experienced a lot and being new, are still getting used to how different systems and cultures work in the UK. I think it’s really important to help people understand the culture in the UK and I try to help people do this.

The issues the clients can have that I work with can be very different. They might have had a letter in English which needs translating about their immigration status for example. Something like this is very important, but also frustrating and stressful if you don’t know what it says. So another part of my job is to help calm people down and as I have my own experiences – including some of what they are going through – I can put myself in their shoes and relate to their problems.

It’s good life experience to be at RMC. I feel lucky and the job has helped me improve my English, IT skills and make friends. It’s helped me understand my own situation better and people give me respect.

While I still wait to sort out my own situation, I continue to study language and college to improve my English. I also watch a lot of movies to do this! When I’m not volunteering, reading books in English also helps and I spend my free time painting. It’s also important to me to start and end my day with music. This really helps me feel better. ‘Where Is The Love’ by The Black Eyed Peas is one of my favourites, because in my opinion love is the key and presents hope. This is very important.

I would say my greatest achievement is being able to help others, and if I can continue to do this, it makes me very happy. I have received a lot of help from others since being in the UK, and one day if I’m allowed to work I want to give back even more. For me a job would not be about money and every day I remind myself I have a duty to help others.

Black History Month in the UK takes place from the 1st to 31st October. This national celebration aims to promote and celebrate black contributions to British society, and to foster an understanding of black history in general.

Over the next week, we will be sharing the stories, experiences and successes from members of staff and volunteers at the charity to coincide with the end of Black History Month.

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