This week (3rd-10th December) donations to Breaking Barriers through our Big Give page will be DOUBLED, creating an amazing opportunity to double your impact and make a real difference to the lives of our refugee clients. Breaking Barriers Senior Employment and Integration Adviser, Ray Shami, reflects on his role at Breaking Barriers and the work that we do as a charity.
I have always been interested in supporting underrepresented communities. I am originally from Syria, a country that has experienced civil war and ever since the civil war I have had an urge to contribute more to the humanitarian crisis that affected my country of origin. Before moving to London, I lived and worked in the Netherlands and Germany, helping refugees integrate better into society. Prior to that, I worked with an NGO that supported Arabic-speaking LGBTQ refugees to settle in Canada. Currently, I provide support as a Senior Employment and Integration Adviser with Breaking Barriers. The role allows me to interact with clients from various backgrounds, supporting them into a diverse range of employment sectors, further education or training.
I am a part of the service delivery team which runs the education and employment programmes in different regions across London. I believe that at Breaking Barriers we have an incredibly welcoming and supportive work culture. As a team, we always find ways to overcome challenges and be supportive of one another in difficult times. I feel very lucky to work with a diverse and inspiring team of highly motivated staff members. My role is focused on supporting clients in the South and South-East of London. I work with highly skilled volunteers who support the employment programme. Every week, I aim to match the right volunteers with the right clients based on their expertise and languages. It is very fulfilling for me to experience the positive outcomes of our service delivery model on a weekly basis as I observe our volunteers passionately engaged and supporting our clients. Meeting clients to support them and empower them to take charge of their own paths is my favourite part of the job. I always feel a great sense of fulfilment when I experience my clients grow, progress and achieve their goals and dreams.
Working in the refugee sector has its challenges. After over ten years of not being able to return to my home country Syria, I find myself quite nostalgic and even homesick when working with Syrian clients. A few weeks ago, a client brought her Syrian passport as a proof of ID. I have not seen a Syrian passport for a long time as it is not required to be presented. Looking at the passport reminded me of a missing part of my life, exile, and my family and friends back home. Moments like this make me realise how war has stripped away a part of my identity and it has made it very difficult to identify with a place I cannot recognise anymore. As challenging as this may be, I have learnt to move on, to look forward and to always focus on the needs of my clients.
I see society as a landscape and as an ecosystem where one thing changes, everything changes. I believe integration of refugees and asylum seekers is something we are all involved in. I think it is important to embrace diversity, support people with various skills to integrate into society while keeping their autonomy and dignity. The process of integration is not only the migrants’ responsibility. It is a collective effort to include less privileged individuals in our society by supporting them to navigate many violent structures and overcome significant challenges. Our charity aims to support the integration of refugees through employment. We aim to contribute to a society that is not only multicultural, but also intercultural. Our employment programme allows people from different walks of life to meet and to benefit from one another, enabling our clients to access the assets of the communities they live in.
Please donate what you can to Breaking Barriers this week. Your donation will have double the impact towards supporting our clients to find stable and meaningful employment. Please help our charity to thrive, grow and to reach more people in need of support. For many of us, working here at Breaking Barriers is not only a job, but also a journey. It is a journey of learning, giving and personal growth. By donating today, you not only support our mission, but you also support our staff on their journey to give back by contributing to society and influencing the lives of people positively.