The Lord Mayor of Coventry, Councillor Tony Skipper hosted an awards ceremony which celebrated the contribution of refugees and asylum seekers to the city earlier this week.
The presentation took place at The Council House and was co-hosted by Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre (CRMC).
Certificates were presented to 33 individuals for their efforts to rebuild their lives and integrate in the community since arriving in the city. Councillor Skipper said: “Tonight we recognise that people from all around the world have come to this city and are working hard to rebuild their lives and become part of our community.
“Your rewards are very well deserved. Coventry is a proud city and a very caring city, offering a welcome to those fleeing war and persecution. I’d like to thank Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre for their brilliant work dedicated to supporting these vulnerable people.”
Organisations from across Coventry were in attendance, presenting certificates for a range of achievements alongside the Lord Mayor after working with the individuals in partnership with CRMC. They included Whitefriars, Pet-Xi, JBC, Wates Group, Coventry City Council, Accelerate, the Coventry City of Culture Trust and Warwickshire CAVA’s Ambition Project.
Sisters Dina and Aseel El Haj arrived in the city last year after escaping the civil war, genocide and famine that is rife in Sudan. They were awarded certificates for their efforts volunteering – Aseel as a volunteer at CRMC and Dina at the Myton Hospice charity shop - and for securing qualifications in IT, Customer Service, and Health & Safety. Dina and Aseel said: “We are very happy to be in Coventry and very proud to receive these awards.
“We’d like to thank all those that have helped us in the city since we arrived. We hope to become nurses in the future and have both just begun studying at Warwickshire College to achieve this.”
Employment & Service Development Manager at CRMC, Jan Malatesta helped organised last night and has worked with the sisters since they first arrived. She said: “They are such positive and proactive girls and have made huge efforts to rebuild their lives and integrate since arriving here.
“In the space of a year, they have gone from knowing no English to now studying at college. Like with many other people we support, all they want is an opportunity to rebuild their lives in peace and sanctuary. They show that if given the opportunity, they can achieve a lot.”
Jihan Belal was also presented with a certificate for her volunteering efforts at Coventry City Council and Citizens Advice Bureau. Arriving from Syria two years ago, she was welcomed to the city by the Syrian Integration Project, which is led by the City Council and includes CRMC, Citizens Advice Bureau and Coventry Law Centre. She now plays for Coventry Sharks, the city’s National Championship-winning women’s handball team and works full time at Interserve. She said: “Coventry appreciates what you do, even if it is extremely small.
“I was very upset when I arrived, but the support and welcome I’ve received has been brilliant. I’m proud to call Coventry my home.”
David London, who is part of the Integration Team at CRMC also helped arrange the awards presentation and has worked with Jihan. He said: “Jihan has shown drive and determination since arriving, and I’m confident she can continue to progress and achieve her dreams.”
Nicole Malatesta, part of the Coventry City of Culture Trust, spoke at the event and said: “Coventry’s welcome to the newly arrived is something which we can all be proud of.
“Its diversity, culture and ethos of offering peace and sanctuary to those that require it, is a key reason why Coventry is the perfect candidate for the UK City of Culture in 2021.”
Speaking at the end of the event, Jan added: “We would like to thank the Lord Mayor for taking the time to present these awards and accommodating all of us in the beautiful surroundings of the council chambers.
“We would also like to congratulate all those that received certificates and thank all those wonderful organisations working with us to help refugees rebuild their lives.”