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Swansea Sanctuary Seeker outlines volatile journey at Wales-wide conference.

Swansea City of Sanctuary attended an Oxfam Cymru hosted event at The Senedd in Cardiff Bay on February 5th to celebrate the success of the ‘Building Livelihoods and Strengthening Communities in Wales’ project.

The Oxfam Cymru Livelihoods project began in September 2012 and will continue until September 2015, and is delivered by nine Oxfam Partners, one of which is the African Community Centre in Swansea. The event titled ‘Surviving to Thriving’, celebrated the project’s personal success stories and raised the voices of people living in poverty in Wales today.

The foundation for the project is the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach, which uses assets present within a community as opposed to emphasising those absent from a community.

Isioma Ikediashi, General Manager of the African Community Centre, explained that this approach has given her the opportunity to see her beneficiaries “through their own eyes” and to “offer participants the services/support they need rather than one prescribed.”

Since using the SLA, I work more holistically with beneficiaries listening for underlying issues that are not immediately seen when they walk through the door. The SLA tool itself has been very useful in understanding the circumstances of the people I support, to see where they have come from on their journeys and indeed measure their growth as they progress on the project.

The event included emotional presentations from the various project beneficiaries and peer mentors about their personal stories and achievements. We were delighted to hear from Amber Esther, a peer mentor at the African Community Centre. Amber detailed her personal story; why it became necessary for her to leave her home country and how the support she has received has enabled her and her children to settle and flourish.

“I came here as a shattered, battered woman, bereaved of all her hopes… Birmingham was the first city we were placed in, followed by London, Cardiff and finally Swansea which has been a home to me and my kids since 2012. It was the first time in years that we could sleep in peace and go about life without any fear.”

Amber attended counselling sessions at the centre and as time went on, she joined sewing classes, which she now teaches. Amber explained: “I am not in a competition with anyone, nor am I trying to over-shadow someone else’s achievements. I am just striving to be a better person than I was yesterday. I volunteer with the Cancer-Research for two days, translate and interpret with African Community Centre during counselling sessions, study ESOL at Entry level3, actively participate in the church activities and above all, I find peace and joy doing all of this.”