I sat down with Kidist to talk about her journey from service user to staff member at RETAS. Her story is incredible and I hope you enjoy hearing about it as much as I did.
Kidist's journey reflects that of many of our staff members and volunteers, which we feel adds real value to our workforce and strategic development.
We are excited to see the continued development of her social enterprise.
When were you first involved with RETAS and in what capacity?
I started as a client at RETAS in 2015, while I was still an asylum seeker, and then became a volunteer for over one year before going back to University. Volunteering helped me a lot in terms of understanding how the system works in the UK, be exposed to local people and the culture. I also developed lots of confidence in my ability to carry out tasks myself, which enabled me to apply for NARIC, Benefits and a Travel Document independently. This helped my self-development and I learned a lot before I had even got my status.
On understanding the university system better now, I would have liked to study part-time in order to more comfortably cover the costs of the course. My role now at RETAS was motivated by the desire to ensure that other refugees have the full range of information available to them and that they receive the best possible Information, Advice and Guidance. My lived perspective helps to fill this gap and I do not want others to find the same challenges as I have found and be able to better evaluate their options. I hope that I also act as a role model to demonstrate that going to university is possible and so I encourage them as much as possible. I have recently been advising a lot of students with regards to accessing higher education and I am proud to say that I have helped eleven individuals to gain places at University through providing ongoing support throughout the application process.
What advice would you give to other refugees pursuing higher education and a successful career?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I set up a Social Enterprise called Unleashing Refugee Potential (URP LEEDS) which aims to support the employability and entrepreneurship of refugee professionals and those migrants who passed through the asylum-seeking process. In five years, I hope to have been able to expand this enterprise to the whole of West Yorkshire. I would also like to have established a strong networks and relationships with both third sector and private businesses as this will be key to this expansion. Further, I would like to improve the coordination of employment and business support in Leeds to improve access to existing support and referral/ signposting mechanisms between each of the organisations. This should in turn create a greater benefit for individuals. It should be a multi-agency effort which avoids individuals travelling round to get support from different organisations which are actually offering the same support. In terms of RETAS, I am keen to bridge the gap between clients being job ready and actually finding a job.
Generally, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me along the way and say thank you for believing in me. My journey started all the way from being an asylum seeker and so at each stage of the process there was so much support from different people and organisations. Even now, with setting up my own social enterprise, I am receiving so much support from key people so thank you to everyone.
Established in 2002, RETAS (Refugee Education Training Advice Service) has a vision to see all refugees, asylum seekers and other vulnerable migrants to feel welcome and supported to fully integrate into society.
We provide assistance with access to education, re-qualification, training and employment to help them better integrate in their communities. We strive to build confidence and hope in our service users, and empower them to build a safe and secure life here in the UK.
233-237 Roundhay Road
The Roundhay Road Resource Centre
Leeds, LS8 4HS