A new start

Bibi at the centre helping a young girl at a table with pens and paper on

Islington is a place that welcomes everyone, and recognises and values the contribution of refugees, migrants and those seeking sanctuary in the borough. Following the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in August 2021, more than 15,000 Afghans and British nationals were evacuated. Afghan refugee and Islington resident Bibi Nuria is one of those people. She tells us her story

My husband, five children and I had a very good life in Kabul before the Taliban returned to power.

We arrived in Islington in September 2021 and lived in hotels for 10 months, before moving to our current accommodation in Hornsey Rise last year. I currently volunteer in the nursery at The Bridge School, helping run activities and supporting children with special educational needs.

I found it challenging working with special needs children at first, as I had never done it before, but now I miss them when I’m not at the school. To give an example, a child with special needs was refusing to take their jacket off, even when asked by their family. I was able to help the child feel comfortable enough to remove it, which was a big achievement.

I’ve been there for almost a year now and I’ve become very familiar with the staff and children. They feel like my family now. My manager has supported me a lot since I started volunteering there and has become my best friend in the UK. In November, I’m going to start an apprenticeship as a teaching assistant – before we left Kabul, I had been teaching religious studies in a secondary school for 12 years.

Islington Council and other organisations have also been very helpful, providing us with everything we need to live in the UK. They helped us to access financial support, find accommodation and register our children at school. They also helped us register for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes, which were vital. We attended workshops and seminars to learn everything we needed to know for our new life in the UK, such as how to pay utility bills, how to open a bank account and how to register at a GP.

Throughout our time in Islington, our case worker Yeri has been extremely supportive. My husband and I are in a WhatsApp group chat with Yeri, where we can ask questions and be directed to support and advice.

I also attend a weekly women’s social group at Caxton House Community Centre in Archway. This is run by local charity Kurdish And Middle Eastern Women’s Organisation (KMEWO). It’s a great place to come together and socialise. We’ve been on group outings to famous places in London such as the Natural History Museum, Sky Garden and Camden Market. I’m looking forward to discovering more places in London and I would like to visit Natural History Museum again, but this take my children with me. I also enjoy taking my children to all the different parks in Islington. It’s important that they get outside, enjoy nature and connect with the environment.

Islington Council is marking this year’s Refugee Week (19–25 June) with two free events at the Islington Assembly Hall, a job support event and community celebration event.

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