Growing in the Sahara

Muna Abdulla receives her certificate from Mayor of Preston Coun Veronica Afrin as she presents the awards of achievements for adult learners
Muna Abdulla receives her certificate from Mayor of Preston Coun Veronica Afrin as she presents the awards of achievements for adult learners
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Women from across Lancashire have been equipped with new-found confidence and skills, thanks to training courses at a Preston organisation. Sarah Fielden finds out about the projects.

Muna Abdulla was left feeling isolated after the culture shock of moving from Dubai to Chorley.

She had left a senior position in an Islamic bank, and faced one of her “biggest life challenging transitions” 
relocating to England.

But, after attending courses at Sahara in Preston, she regained her confidence and is now registered with two interpreting companies.

“It was a culture shock to me at the beginning, it is completely different”, said Muna, 41.

“I had a job, a steady income, I had everything there. Then I came here and had to start all over again.”

Muna, who was born in Yemen, said she felt isolated when she moved to Chorley about 18 months ago, and said she received no responses to job 

She said: “I 
became a housewife and a mother.

“It’s ok because it’s not an easy task. It’s really hard, it’s not just about cooking and cleaning, it’s about management of the house and taking care of the children.”

But she added: “But I couldn’t just sit idle, I had to be more useful and go back to my normal life.”

Muna took courses at Sahara including community interpreting, helping in schools, self development and confidence building, run by Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) tutor 
Kailash Parekh.

She said she was now registered with two 
interpreting companies, and had been given 
independence through the courses.

She said: “There are so many things it’s taught me.

“Coming from that distance to take the course is really paying off, so I’m just encouraging all ladies who live near by to take 
advantage of it.”

Muna said she wanted to thank organiser Kailash, as well as Sahara Centre manager Zafar Coupland for their support.

And Muna is just one of many women who have found confidence and independence through the courses.

Farah Iqbal, 46, from Ribbleton, was made redundant last summer from a job she had for 14 years.

She said: “I was gutted, really. I was doing nothing, I was just at home looking 
after the kids.”

But then Farah joined the community interpreting course, and now interprets in English and Punjabi.

She said: “I felt quite lost when I lost my job, I felt like I had nothing to do.

“But the course gave me more confidence and more independence, and I am looking forward to using the skills.”

Nafisa Patel, 31, from Fulwood, joined the community interpreting course after 10 years out of education.

She said: “At the 
beginning, I hadn’t been in education for so long it was quite hard.

“But once I started I absolutely loved it.”

She added: “The course has really made me realise that I would love to go back into something, doing anything, just to go back to work and do something for the community.”

Kailash Parekh, who is an adult learning practitioner, said the courses couldn’t have run without the help of Sahara, which offers support for black and Asian women across 

She said: “It has been a really great partnership between WEA and Sahara, and we want to build on that.”

She said: “We are a college without the walls, we are a national body and we go out in the community.

“Through that we offer a wide variety of courses such as literacy or ICT.”

She added: “It builds their confidence, it gives them future employment, it makes their children proud.”

The learners were presented with certificates to recognise their achievements, from Mayor of Preston Coun Veronica Afrin.