Meet Haleh

“I was a civil engineer in Iran.  I’d had a successful career for seventeen years.  The economy collapsed and my husband lost his company.  Everything of value was now worth nothing.  There was no security.  It wasn’t an easy decision to leave, I left many things and people behind.

When I came here, I led an isolated life.  I didn’t have any friends or anyone I knew.  For someone who used to work a lot, it was unusual to do nothing; to not have a job.  It started to get to me.  I became negative and depressed.  After two months, I made the first step to attend conversation classes.  And that was useful but I needed more.  I wanted to mix into society, to meet people.  I had lots of questions.  They suggested I volunteer and I started helping the teachers and staff here. 

It was heart-warming to see them wanting to help me; they accept people’s differences, no matter who they are or where they are from.  They made me feel at ease; they accepted me and I had never expected that.  The people who work here have become my family, people I could trust and rely on.  I could ask them the smallest thing.  All those negative feelings disappeared and I enjoy being here.  I feel active and positive and love interacting with people from different countries and cultures.  It enabled me to find myself, to find my place in this society.”

Leeds Refugee Forum supports refugees and asylum seekers by offering practical support through education, advice and information. Support from Leeds Community Foundation helped them to produce events that celebrated Refugee Week. Through a range of activities and workshops, they enabled around 400 people to experience different cultures and activities as well as an opportunity for others to experience aspects of cultures different to their own.