Volunteering Gave Me Confidence

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When Randa Alsomali (pictured) from Saudi Arabia was considering where to do her Master’s degree, she did a lot of research before choosing to come to Coventry and, in the end, she is really glad she did!

“I looked at the degree options for various Universities and Coventry’s seem to be a perfect fit for me”, said Randa.

The Public Health and Nutrition Masters course was ideal as it ticked all the boxes because it contained a variety of extras which no other degree offered, including a section on journalism.

“I had worked in a hospital before I came to Coventry, mainly on intensive care wards, and I worked with people who were chronically ill. I wanted a new challenge and to be able to work with people who I could help. I decided that my future would be working with children and in preventative medicine, so I chose public health as it gave me more scope to interact in a more positive way with the public.

“I thought my Master’s degree would give me more awareness in areas that I had an interest but no real experience.”

Randa also felt that while she was in Coventry, it would be good to try something new and so when she saw an advert on Moodle for the volunteering fair, she decided to give it a go so she could try to integrate more with the local community.

“I came across the stand for the charity ‘Thare Machi Education’ (TME) who were looking for volunteers and what they wanted sounded very interesting.

Thare Machi Education makes ‘basic life-saving information accessible to some of the world’s poorest people, especially women and children, in their own languages’. I wanted to be able to use my language to be able to translate some of this information so it could be used to educate non-English-speaking refugees around the world.”

TME has over 880 lessons available in different languages on DVD

At first Randa was a little shy as this was the first time that she had done anything outside of University and she wasn’t sure if her English was good enough to be able to understand what she was hoping to translate:

“I was made to feel very welcome by the local TME group and they soon made me feel relaxed. The work they do is amazing. Some people lose out on basic health information because there are not enough resources for them to get access to it. This health education material is intended for some of the most vulnerable people in society and by getting the material translated into as many different languages as possible, means that more people can benefit.”

The volunteering has given Randa a totally new outlook on things. Because English is not her first language, she felt unsure whether or not she would be useful to the group:

“I should not have worried because everyone has been so very friendly and supportive. No pressure was put on me to perform at a certain pace, I was allowed to take on as much translating that I could cope with. The charity has also given me a purpose to want to do more for the poor children in the Yemen as they are suffering terribly.”

Randa had to translate, and then record, various health education materials into Arabic which was quite daunting because she wasn’t used to the recording equipment, but she soon got the hang of it.

“No-one likes to hear the sound of their own voice, but I had to keep telling myself that it was for a good cause and that a lot of people would benefit from it.”

TME is respected world-wide for the work they do and Randa felt she wanted to play her part in doing something for the community in the city she calls home for the time being.

She said:

“TME take simple life-saving information and make it accessible to some of the world’s poorest people, especially women and children. Although I have been doing audio recordings for them, they also make interactive audio visual lessons in the user’s own language.  

There are currently 32 topics covered by the charity in over 65 languages! As you can imagine, it is a major challenge for the charity!”

Watching a DVD at the Amani Center for Street Children in Tanzania

Randa has faced her own challenges since coming to Coventry from Saudi Arabia.

“It is always daunting doing something new and Public Health was the area I decided to go into, couple that with moving to a new country and a new city and finding new challenges.

“Everything has been a big learning curve for me, but I am so glad I decided to come to study in Coventry. By volunteering, I have learned so many new skills and one of those has been to work with others. By dealing with new people and new circumstances, my confidence has been boosted. I also get to see the world in a different way by becoming familiar with how other people cope with their own issues.

“My time management has improved and the volunteering has been a nice contrast to the challenges of studying. I am glad I had this outlet to do something good with what skills I had to offer.

“You don’t know until you try if you are going to be good at something and this experience has taught me that anything is possible.

“The people are so friendly and I have settled down well. My Somalian roots and my Saudi upbringing was embraced by the team at TME and the best thing is, I have been exposed to different cultures and so for me, Coventry has been amazing.”

Because Randa wants to work with children, her area of expertise and the subject of her Masters is looking at childhood obesity.

“It is a big problem in the West and totally on the other end of the scale to what children in other poor countries are experiencing. I think the key to tacking childhood obesity is better education, not just for the children, but for the parents. They are the ones that control what a child does or does not eat and by educating them to make the right choices, means children will not grow up with bad eating habits.”

Earlier this year, Randa was nominated for a CUSU award for her volunteering:

“I was extremely flattered to have been nominated for this award. It was something that I wasn’t expecting and to be shortlisted as a finalist was very special.”

Randa will be leaving Coventry once her Masters is complete and she will be going back to Saudi Arabia more confident, accomplished and inspired:

“I am so glad that when I did my research about which Master’s degree to do, I found Coventry. It has given me so much and I hope that when I am working in my chosen field, I will be taking some of the skills that I picked up through volunteering with me”.

If you would like to know more about volunteering at Coventry University, visit:

https://www.cusu.org/coventry/opportunities/volunteering/

To find out more about TME, then visit their website: https://tme.org.uk/ or check out their facebook page to see what opportunities are available locally:

https://www.facebook.com/ThareMachiEducation/

 

*Images of the work TME do around the world are courtesy of charity.

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