When I joined the SIS Management Committee in September 2011, I had just left my job as a immigration lawyer with Brighton Housing Trust. For over 15 years, I had advised and represented people seeking asylum, wishing to re-unite their families in this country, and needing to regularise their status here, in order to access employment, benefits, health services and education. I worked closely with SIS’ interpreters, and was impressed by their skill, professionalism and commitment to clients, and grateful for the efficiency and tolerance of SIS staff who dealt with my bookings, often at short notice. So, when I was asked to join the SIS MC, I was happy to get involved in an organisation which I respected, for delivering a high-quality service, whilst maintaining its values.
I became Chair of the MC in September 2012. Apart from 2 years in legal private practice whilst training as a solicitor, I have always worked in the voluntary/third sector, in both paid and voluntary capacities. I hope that my experience, coupled with my commitment to SIS’s Mission, Vision and Values, will help the organisation to continue to deliver top-class services and develop to better meet the needs of our service users.
I became a trustee for SIS in 2011. For me, it was a natural progression as at the time, I had been working with the organisation for over a decade as a self-employed interpreter, translator and bilingual advocate. Most importantly, I share the same beliefs, values and vision as the charity.
Having a very hectic work load meant that I sometimes struggled to meet the time demands placed on me. Nevertheless, I have made it work for me and SIS, and the rewards have been immense in terms of skill development, networking and pride.
SIS has grown significantly in the last few years and is leading the way in helping to establish an all-inclusive and diverse society. Being part of shaping the charity’s future as a growing organisation is a great privilege, and one I am very happy to contribute to as a trustee.
Being a SIS trustee has been and will continue to be a very enriching experience both professionally and personally.
I am a Psychotherapeutic Counsellor for the Brighton and Hove Wellbeing Service (a part of the NHS). I work with people (patients) who have mental health problems; finding ways of reducing depression and anxiety. Until 2019 I specialised in working with asylum seekers or refugees who may not speak English, or, if they do, find it hard to say exactly what they mean. It can be especially difficult when seeing a professional person; many people find such situations scary. So, I often worked with interpreters, mostly from Sussex Interpreting Services. Accurate, professional interpreting is very important, both to patients and to the professional working with them. It has been my experience that interpreters from SIS are, without exception, professional, dedicated and sensitive people. They all make a contribution that goes far beyond just turning one language into another. Interpreters enhance the flow of information. Furthermore, the interpreters, patients and professionals are all supported by an infrastructure of SIS staff – directors, coordinators, education and training staff, IT experts. This is an efficient, flexible and intelligent team that gets what is needed to where it is needed. I offered my services to the Board of SIS as a way of showing my appreciation for what SIS does. In my role as Board Member, I try and give something back to the organisation that does so much for so many people struggling with their new lives in a new country.
I am the longest-standing current trustee of SIS. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to communicate in a country where you do not know the language. When I first left my home country of Iran nearly 40 years ago, my family and I spent three months living in Germany where we had to rely on the kindness of relatives in order to make ourselves understood. We soon moved to England where we owned a summer house.
I used the basic English I had learned in Iran to make friends with my neighbours and get involved in my community. As an active member of the Bahá’í Faith, a religious minority persecuted in Iran to the present day, my beliefs that “Service to humanity is service to God,” and that “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens” led me to work with various like-minded charitable organisations including SIS. I am keenly aware of the important services offered by SIS and give it my whole-hearted support. I am also currently involved with the Black and Minority Ethnic Community Partnership, the Rotary Club and volunteer on a weekly basis to assist refugees at the Cowley Club in Brighton.
I find it very fulfilling to help others and make every effort to do so whenever I am able.
I live in Brighton and Hove and also enjoy spending time with my grandchildren
I am delighted to be joining the Sussex Interpreting Services board of trustees as the charity consolidates and expands its vital work in the next few years. Throughout my career I have worked in partnership with SIS interpreters to provide advice for those navigating the complexities of the UK legal process and have been greatly impressed by the calibre of its staff and volunteers. My experience demonstrated the invaluable service that SIS provides to the most vulnerable and at risk in our community. Previously I have spent three years as a trustee with Mankind, Brighton and Hove, and will be bringing my experience of charity governance and the voluntary sector to my role with SIS. Recently I have worked for the British Red Cross helping refugees and the International Family Tracing Service, Age UK Brighton and Hove as the Dementia Action Alliance Coordinator and volunteered for HelpAge International in London. I have a firm belief in the importance of helping everyone in the community have a voice in the decisions that affect their life and particularly those with learning disabilities as one of my daughters has Down Syndrome. Currently I am undertaking an MA in Power, Participation and Social Change at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex.
Brighton & Hove has a proud history of welcoming migrants – including refugees from pogroms, workers brought to the UK during the empire, vulnerable families fleeing war zones and Europeans celebrating freedom of movement. Armed conflict, the persecution of minorities, poverty and climate change continue to make Brighton & Hove a safe haven for thousands of people. City Council data suggests around 50,000 residents were born outside the UK and that 1 in 10 households have at least one member who does not speak English.
Since retiring from a career in education, including as a college lecturer, a manager for the City Council and a Department for Education senior funding advisor, I have been a trustee for an adult education centre and a teacher of English to migrants. Learning English is core to education. Without the ability to communicate in English, rights can be lost and barriers to health, housing, education, training, work and the law emerge. Yet for many born outside the UK the need to be understood, and to understand, cannot wait for English classes.
Recently, I have volunteered with organisations supporting refugees, assisting migrants in detention and providing aid to those seeking asylum in the UK. The necessity of interpreting and translation services, combined with mediation, advocacy and education, has become obvious and this is why the work of SIS is essential to so many in Brighton & Hove and why I’m proud to be a trustee for SIS.