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Woman to Woman – Blog 3

My name is Afaq. #WomanToWoman, I want to share my story about how volunteering has helped me gain confidence and independence.

Growing up in Iraq, I studied computer science and enjoyed it. After graduating, I found work at an architectural design company. After a while, I got married and started a family, and left my work in computing.

A few years ago, my husband applied for a postgraduate scholarship to study overseas. He was accepted to study in Dundee so we came here two years ago.

When I came here I felt depressed and homesick. There was a lot of culture shock and I struggled to communicate. The local accent was difficult for me. We met some other Iraqis and I asked how I could learn more English. Amina MWRC was recommended and I came to a class and really enjoyed it. After the New Year break I came to the next full set of English Conversation classes, which were taught by an ESOL teacher called Gloria. She encouraged me to volunteer with Amina. I said yes because I wanted to improve my language skills and meet more people. At first, I wasn’t sure of the skills I had to offer but now, after a year, I know more about the way I can help people. After being a volunteer here, I would like to offer this kind of support to women in my home country when I go back.  Iraq has a lot of problems and women there could use this kind of help.

When I started volunteering, I wasn’t focussed on finding work, but as time has gone on, I have been thinking about working more. I found paid sessional work with Amina, teaching a group of women how to use computers. This is the first time I had paid work in the UK and also a long time since I worked outside the home. It has made me really happy. It showed me I can manage my time, my other responsibilities and made me aware of a new skill – teaching.

I enjoy volunteering because I know how much Amina helped me at first, when I didn’t know many people and wasn’t confident speaking English. I want other women to have the same support and companionship I found here.

#WomanToWoman, being a volunteer helped me to support others, and it helped my confidence, language and skills. Sharing my time with others feels like a blessing.