Training helps to make Syrian refugees feel welcome

By becoming involved in Media Trust’s MyLondon programme, charity founder Fardous Bahbouh has seen her grass-roots level initiative for Syrian refugees Ahlan Wa Sahlan grow.

Grass-roots level growth

Taking part in the MyLondon programme has enabled the charity to expand, assisting greater numbers of refugees. It has provided Fardous with a number of tools to use to communicate the impact of AhlanWa Sahlan’s (meaning ‘welcome’) work, including the chance to create a short film about the charity’s work.

“The programme is a fantastic opportunity” Fardous states.“We are now able to attract more group members and volunteers.” She also credits the programme with an increase in media coverage for the charity; “we have been featured in many publications” she says, which include the Daily Mail and TimeOut magazine.

The warmest of welcomes

Fardous decided to set up Ahlan Wa Sahlon to offer some much-needed help to Syrian refugees, as a reaction to the devastation of the war in Syria. The grass-roots initiative welcomes refugees to London, offering them lessons in English and the chance to get involved in social activities. These opportunities help refugees make new friends and begin to build a new life in the UK.

“Both Syria and the UK have a great tradition of welcoming refugees and we want to continue this noble practice”, explains Fardous.

[The programme] has been very useful in explaining our work and correcting misconceptions.

Fardous Bahbouh, Founder, Ahlan Wa Sahlan

Fardous receiving training in carrying out radio and TV interviews as part of the MyLondon project.

Correcting mainstream misconceptions

For Fardous, founding Ahlan Wa Sahlan was a steep learning curve; “I took on a new challenge in a field that I did not know enough about”, she says.

Faced with misconceptions regarding refugees and migrants in the mainstream press, Fardous was keen to use the power of the media to put forward a positive side to the story, and explain the significant impact of her charity’s work.

Skills to succeed

Through the MyLondon project, Media Trust helped Fardous cultivate essential skills to promote her charity’s work. Connected with professional, expert journalists, she received training in carrying out radio and TV interviews, writing press releases and using social media channels. MyLondon programme manager, Safia Abdulla, also offered Fardous help and guidance in managing a community initiative, providing valuable advice and recommendations.

I had a TV interview with a journalist who told me ‘You are press ready!'

Fardous Bahbouh, Founder, Ahlan Wa Sahlan

Ahlan Wa Sahlan is a grassroots initiative fostering community cohesion and helping Syrian refugees build a new life in London through English classes, social and cultural activities, women focused events and employability workshops.

Press ready

Fardous says she is now “better prepared” for any media interviews that come her way. “I had a TV interview with a journalist who told me ‘You are press ready!”, she recalls.Fully skilled-up to communicate the important work her charity is carrying out, Fardous can now turn her hand to media release writing and creating social media content. 
Fardous says that the best part of the programme was making a video about Ahlan Wa Sahlan, which has been “very useful in explaining our work and correcting misconceptions” about refugees. 
Above all, through participating in MyLondon she realises that“we can all make a difference by using our skills and abilities…and we can start with our local communities”.

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