Thank you for talking with us Theodore, tell us a bit about yourself …
I am Theodore Manzambi, and since August 2020 have been an Advice Support Worker at the Welsh Refugee Council’s Swansea office.
Prior to that, I worked for the Centre for African Entrepreneurship in their active inclusion project “Time to Work” and “Inform Young Refugee” while volunteering for the Welsh Refugee Council from April 2019.
Before coming to the UK, I worked in the Aviation Industry for twenty years in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Arriving in August 2017, I had moved to Swansea into dispersal accommodation by November, where I volunteered as a French Mentor at SCVS and at the Oxfam book shop. I also contributed to setting up the Congolese Development Project organisation in October 2018, to provide better support to newcomers in Swansea/Wales speaking French, Lingala, Swahili and Tshiluba.
To better improve my knowledge in the UK after completing my ESOL course, I obtained a Level 4 Certificate in Skills for the workplace in 2020 at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. This helped me to continue my learning for a degree in Business Leadership and Management.
My daily work consists of supporting people from day one, when they are granted leave to remain in UK, with their move and to better integrate into the society. I help them to access services, such as opening bank account, applying for benefits and housing, and raising awareness into employment before signposting them to other organisations partners.
I am passionate about helping people. I also enjoy reading and watching films and series when I have time.
What would you say are the main struggles in getting into leadership employment as an ex-refugee?
Refugees face lots of barriers in getting into leadership employment in the United Kingdom, although they have capability and necessary skills to manage or lead a team as native people.
Without being exhaustive, the following are the main barriers and challenges for refugees:
- Language: lack of fluency in speaking and writing English is a massive barrier as every communication need to be in English. Not trying to overcome this will not allow one to become confident.
- Lack of trust: most people think that being refugees mean not having necessary skills for employment and therefore only suitable for low paid or undesirable work.
- Lack of opportunities: borrowing a quote from Richard Masur: you must give people the opportunity to prove themselves, people can only be judged if they have opportunities to demonstrate what they know with collaborative support in the workplace.
- Workplace Culture: lack of understanding of the UK workplace culture makes it harder for refugees to integrate and feel included.
- UK Asylum system: the UK asylum system is a fundamental barrier, but you will only know when you start the complicated process. As no one knows on how long they can remain in that system before a decision would be made on being granted a permanent residency status, it often causes refugees to lose hope. Having the uncertainty of when can move onto your next life can really affect one’s well-being, mental health and so on.
What made you decide to join as a chair for the Wales Bright Future Forum?
Firstly, I did not expect that I would be asked to become a chair for the Wales Bright Future Forum although I accepted to join the forum.
Secondly, I am always keen on learning new things since I have arrived in this country. Therefore, I have decided to convert my weakness into opportunities and having this offer was a good opportunity for me to grow and better understand my leadership style.
In addition, considering what I have said previously that refugees do not have opportunities to implement their knowledge, peer learning is one of the good things that I was not expecting. After having a quick look on Ella Forum’s website, I found that no one can grow alone as we all need collaborative working.
Coming from different backgrounds and having a group of people with different thinking is an added value. Ella Forums is one of the best places I have found that I and my organisation can benefit a lot.
If you can trust people around you and be ready to listen, accept ideas and support from others, it is easy for you to grow and become more confident than ever.
By following Dan Poynter who argued that each step you take reveals a new horizon…, and an African proverb says that if you want to go far, go with people but if you want to go fast, go alone. By accepting to become WBFF, I am willing to grow and go far with people.
In your opinion, what advice would you give to those considering joining the membership?
Joining the membership is beneficial and important for both themselves as individuals and the organisations they are working for.
Not only they will have a wide range of ideas and understanding to better face their daily challenges, but also expand their network and doors can be opened for their community members who are looking for various opportunities.
In addition, it gives a variety of perspectives and improves our critical thinking skills, as getting ideas from different people gives you ways and means to solve problems that we face daily.
Furthermore, it helps to grow your self-esteem and learn lots of soft skills that we need for the growth of our organisations and our self-development. For example, during our first forum meeting in January 2022, we all added to our knowledge from Brian Chernett, co-founder of ella Forums, that you can deal with a conflict by providing positive feedback first then express displeasure without the person being hurt.
Today’s world is changing at an incredible speed, joining others allow us to connect with different people having different leadership skills, leading us towards our goals that can be adjusted as we progress.
As a person who has lived experience of a refugee and having the right to work in the UK, I would like to recommend to others to join us at the Wales Bright Futures Forum for mutual growth, better mental and intellectual development that can lead us to further our career progression and secure positions of greater responsibility.
It is always beneficial to share our learning on the success we have achieved, as success without a successor is a failure.