Salah B Rasool – Trustee

I was brought up in Kurdistan, north Iraq and graduated as a Biology teacher, shortly after my first posting as a teacher I had to flee.  Six years later and after an unimaginable journey, I was finally granted status in the UK.

Life as a child, adolescent and young man in Kurdistan was not easy, from mass exoduses, civil war and genocide to living in a conservative society, I think I have experienced a lot in life and have reflected on this in depth since settling in Wales.

When I arrived in Swansea it was the beginning of UK government dispersal programme for asylum seekers and because of my language skills I was able to help people in the Kurdish community and other refugee communities.  I started volunteering at the Welsh Refugee Council in Swansea and after a short period of time I was offered a paid post.  By now I am a Service Manager for the Move On Service which helps people who are newly granted refugees.  Although I was a Biology teacher in Kurdistan after graduating, I have now found myself in this field of work.  I enjoy helping people by empowering them and I also enjoy learning about immigration law, welfare and housing systems and advocacy around these.  I have observed and learnt a lot about the human condition within displacement and the effects of trauma on displaced people.

I am also a qualified interpreter in Kurdish Sorani.  I also speak Farsi, Arabic, Kurdish Kurmanji and Turkish.  I am learning Welsh.

Through my interpreting work in the past and meeting refugees from all over the world, I have been interested in learning about people’s circumstances and have often found myself trying to understand their background and their feeling about their situation.  I believe I have used mindfulness techniques without realising it.  I have also given expert cultural background knowledge to practitioners in the refugee sector as well as to wider third sector organisations and solicitors.

I am quite new to mindfulness and came across the whole notion and practice when I volunteered with Refugee Trauma Initiative in the refugee camps in Greece in 2017.  I used mindfulness techniques with refugees from Syria and Iraq and I was impressed by its simplicity yet positive impact on their wellbeing.  I have been using similar methods through my work, I support and coach volunteers from refugee backgrounds and members of the refugee community often approach me with their problems and dilemmas.

I hope to develop the awareness and practice of mindfulness within refugee communities in Wales; refugees are resilient and I believe with some self – awareness around causes and effects of trauma, mindfulness practice may be beneficial to overcome trauma and build on this resilience. I hope to consolidate my learning from other board members and opportunities within the wider network as well as provide insight on refugee issues.