This month marks the first anniversary of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. One year on, many Afghans who fled their homes and were resettled in the UK are still coming to terms with what has happened.
Our Afghan Citizens Information Service gives people who have recently arrived in Scotland, information and practical support to help them feel at home in their new communities as they begin rebuilding their lives in an unfamiliar country. Since launching in May, the service has supported more than 1,500 Afghans, answering phone calls, responding to emails, and providing information through social media networks and WhatsApp groups.
Our call handlers all have personal experienced of beginning new lives as a refugees in Scotland. They understand how scary and confusing it can be. We caught up with Yalda Rasooli, Hazar Gul Khalil and Farkhonda Kabiri to find out more about the Afghan Citizens Information Service and difference their work is making to people’s lives.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Can you tell us a little bit about your job?
Yalda: “I am handling calls from newly-arrived Afghan refugees who are in dire need of assistance for their settlement in Scotland. The callers have many questions to which I and my colleagues provide guidance and information.”
Hazar: “As a call handler I am being asked for information and practical support from recently arrived Afghans who are struggling, especially with things like employability.”
Farkhonda: “I provide information over the phone or email to Afghan refugees, asylum seekers, and organisations that support relocated Afghans in Scotland.”
Why did you want to work for the Afghan Citizens Information Service?
Yalda: “I have experienced refugee life and found out how challenging it is until you are fully integrated within your new community. Even a very small assistance is a great help to people in this situation.”
Hazar: “I was already involved with recently arrived Afghans and this experience drew me to Scottish Refugee Council and the Afghan Citizens Information Service.”
Farkhonda: “I’ve always had a strong desire to assist those in need, who are marginalised or find it challenging to fit into society.”
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
Yalda: “I am a student at Glasgow Clyde College and do my study when not at work. My long-term plan is to go to University to further my knowledge and to actively take part in the development of Scottish communities. I am also very interested in gardening. Despite having a small space at home, I can still grow several types of plants which decorate my house and make it very green.”
Hazar: “I like watching cricket and taking my daughters for walks.”
Farkhonda: “I love gardening. I have lots of plants! In my spare time, I spend hours taking care of my plants by cutting away the dry leaves, watering, repotting them, taking cuttings for my friends. I name all my plants. I talk to them like they are my babies, especially when they seem withered to me. I want to inspire them to become fresh and healthy.
“Also, I really enjoy doing arts and crafts with my wee son, recycling stuff around the house to entertain him while I teaching him about different things in life.”
What’s the best thing about your job?
Yalda: “I really feel at home when in office. Everyone believes in team work and assist each other with helping refugees in need of support.”
Hazar: “Helping others who need our support. And my colleagues! I am very proud of them and their hard work.”
Farkhonda: “The staff development and employee training. I have completed several online self-study courses since I started. What I learned has really helped me with my job and daily life.”
What’s the most challenging thing about your role?
Yalda: “I haven’t yet come across any big challenges, but I know my teammates will really help me if I do experience any. Some of the refugees we speak to are desperate to easily and quickly integrate into their new communities. From personal experience, I know how they are feeling and how difficult it is. That makes me want to do more to help them, however, we are only able to do so much.”
Hazar: “The most challenging thing is when people call because they are having difficulties and all we can do is provide information. We have no power to change the structures that are causing their problems.”
Farkhonda: “Sometimes people ask me questions or make requests that are outside the scope of my responsibilities, and I don’t want to let them down. I try to direct them to the appropriate organisations or find a solution for them. I’ve occasionally had to stay up till the wee hours of the morning in order to research information so I can respond in an effective manner.”
What do you find most rewarding?
Yalda: “When refugees receive proper guidance and their problems are addressed. I really enjoy doing this. I can easily show empathy with them because I have experienced refugee life.”
Hazar: “When I receive feedback from a client that the information I provided has had a positive impact.”
Farkhonda: “Whenever I get good feedback from clients and learn how helpful the information I gave them was.”