Having had the privilege to volunteer at the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) and see the good work which they do, I set out to speak to some of the beneficiaries of this charity so the wider community can understand the critical need for the ACAA.
The charity, which was founded by Dr. Nooraq Nasimi, was started in 2001 and inspired by his experience of moving from Afghanistan in 1999. Having found himself without the support of an organisation that could speak the same language or help with translation, Dr. Nasimi regards this as one of the main motivations for setting up the ACAA. With immigrants viewing moving to a new country and restarting one’s life as a scary and intimidating journey, the aim of the ACAA is to help make this process easier.
The charity is equipped with people who can speak both English and Farsi, which has been extremely useful for the beneficiaries. It means that they can get help with simple tasks that can make a huge difference, for example, the translation of marriage certificates or drivers’ licenses. Furthermore, it assists with cultural adaption, allowing for the explanation of even just the generic things about life in the UK to newcomers, making all the difference to their resettlement and integration into their respective London communities.
Having once been in the same position that the beneficiaries of the charity are in now, Dr. Nasimi and his family can empathise with those receiving help from the charity. It enabled them to provide authentic emotional support that other refugee support services cannot. With an ability to make people feel comfortable, the ACAA provides an environment where people feel they can share anything they want, helping with stress levels and mental health issues; a problem that many Afghans face when they arrive in the UK. “It [the ACAA] has helped me a lot, not just with forms but for my stress level as well as it is a really great environment and helped me to feel happy in this new country.” These thoughts are echoed by a number of the beneficiaries, as they explained that being connected with other’s in the same position makes them realise that they are not alone, help them make friends, share issues and overcome the aforementioned mental health problems.
The amount of issues which the ACAA deals with is not limited, with a desire to help any problem a person will come to the charity with, they provide a wide range of popular services. Perhaps the most popular service is the ESOL classes, which run three times a week. These classes help people gain a more comprehensive understanding of the English language, a skill which is vitally important for newcomers who are tasked with complex situations such finding a job, applying for citizenship and general integration within London communities.
From my experience and through these interviews, the critical need for this charity cannot be stressed more. Without the ACAA helping so many people, so quickly, settle in London communities many more would have struggled significantly. In fact, one beneficiary summed it up perfectly when they said, “Whatever we needed, this charity has helped.”