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Meet social entrepreneur Ali Abdul: How holistic support is helping refugees fulfil their goals

Since launching in March 2018, MiFriendly Cities has been developing a holistic employment and skills initiative which aims to go beyond services already on offer in the West Midlands. By nurturing the skills and passion of each individual and working to match this with opportunities, we hope to support migrants to make a meaningful contribution to their city, increasing their sense of belonging.

Ali Abdul’s Story

Ali is a Syrian national who came to the UK seeking safety in 2018 and was granted refugee status.

When Ali arrived, he was worried because he didn’t know anything about the country and could not speak English. He came to The Refugee and Migrant Centre (Birmingham and the Black Country) for assistance and initially worked with dedicated caseworkers on their Syrian Resettlement Team to overcome some of the challenges he faced.

RMC caseworkers could see the huge potential Ali had, and wanted to help him feel more at home in the UK. They decided he would be an ideal candidate for referral to the MiFriendly Cities project, which could offer him unique one-to-one support and courses to get him more active in his community.

A personal development plan was created for Ali by the project’s Employment Broker, which provided him with a holistic integration programme.

During this period, Ali completed an Open College Network Level 1 Digital Fabrication Course and an ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) course. The MiFriendly Cities project also provided him with the opportunity to meet new people and form friendships.

But his journey with MiFriendly Cities didn’t end there.

Ali’s dream is to start his own mobile phone repair business – having worked in the industry for over 20 years in Syria – and so he signed up to the four-week social enterprise course provided by the project with CU Social Enterprise.

The course supported Ali to develop his idea into a business aimed at addressing social challenges where he lives. It also taught him the skills to create a business plan, and CUSE worked with him to build his confidence towards pitching for a €5000 grant from the project.

Ali pitched to an expert panel of judges, who awarded him the funding to start his social enterprise. Profits from the business will go back into the community, providing phone and computer repairs for low income families and offering opportunities for work experience.

Currently, Ali is enrolled on a functional skills course at an adult education college in Wolverhampton, where is he is focusing on English and Mathematics.

He said: “I found the six week programme very helpful because I am more confident in speaking English, although I still believe and know that I need to keep improving this.

“I am very thankful for the MiFriendly Cities project, which has given me the tools I need to help secure a bright future for my family and I in my new homeland, the UK.”

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European Union & Urban Innovative Actions

This project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative.