The Optimist Citizen

Lost & Found in Translation: How a linguistic start-up Chatter Box is helping hundreds of Refugees in London

Where there is will, there is a way. However, for the refugees, despite the absence of a way, their will remains persistent. This statement mirrors the situation for almost every refugee across the globe.

Mursal Hedayat, an Economics graduate, came to the United Kingdom at the mere age of four as an Afghan refugee along with her mother. Although her mother was one of the few female civil engineer graduates from Kabul University and had huge industrial experience, she still suffered a decade of joblessness after she came to U.K. Mursal saw countless refugees like her mother who, even after their skills and knowledge, were mostly unemployed and lived a pitiable life. She always felt that every refugee had so much to share, but even after “being highly skilled and educated, English-speaking, eager and able to contribute to UK society and support themselves and their families”, remained jobless. It was this thought that led her to establish a refugee-friendly social enterprise by the name of ‘Chatterbox’.

According to a survey in 2013, an estimated 48 billion euros in trading opportunities was lost due to deficit in language skills. However, due to the present scenario of Brexit and the need to reach out to the rest of the world, shortage of competent linguists remains a top priority. This is where the refugees and Chatterbox come into the use of these nations, in educating the latter about their respective languages and cultures. They tutor students, interested in learning about a foreign culture, either by web-cam or in-person classes. Eiad, a dentist from Damascus, came to UK almost two years ago and has since, been teaching Arabic to studious Londoners. He has also visited several schools, talked to several students about the Syrian civil war and is saving up money to be able to sit for the dentistry exam in London, the upcoming year. There are other refugees who have been contributing in the same manner. From early 2017, Chatterbox will be imparting linguistic and cultural training to the linguistic learners, beginning with the prestigious School of Oriental and African studies. This business model is definitely a tech for good as it is contributing in bridging the differences between the torn apart nations and sewing the open wounds that are inflicted upon refugees in their own nation or the nation in which they take refuge.

Shrija Ganguly | TOC

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