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June 16, 2024
Refugee Employment

Yanal’s Story: from Syria to Coventry


Yanal arrived in Coventry as a refugee escaping the civil war in Syria. She lost her husband during the conflict, and arrived as a widow with her four children. Before Yanal arrived in the UK she had never had a paid job outside her home. However, she knew she needed to learn English and find employment here.

When she arrived in Coventry, Yanal joined World Jewish Relief’s award-winning Specialist Training and Employment Programme, which operates in the city in partnership with Coventry City Council. This refugee week, hear Yanal share her remarkable story of resilience below.

This year, World Jewish Relief’s STEP programme has supported over 25,000 refugees from all backgrounds including Syria, Afghanistan and Ukraine, helping them to learn English and find meaningful employment in the UK. As well as supporting refugees into employment, the programme provides a sense of community, and meets the specific needs of vulnerable groups including women refugees.

Known as STEP Forward, this holistic programme is run in Leeds, Coventry and Bradford and provides women refugees with the skills and knowledge to make informed decisions about their life in the UK. The women are provided with in-person English lessons, digital and financial literacy training, confidence building sessions and a safe space to form bonds with other women from many backgrounds. Childcare and transport costs are also covered by the programme, allowing women to focus on the 36-week course.

Following the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, World Jewish Relief responded by launching a tailored programme for Ukrainian refugees in the UK. Following a significant grant from the British government in August 2023, STEP Ukraine was scaled up to provide support for over 10,000 Ukrainians in the UK.

Through life-changing English language lessons from the British Council, and transformative employment support through a dedicated Employment Advisor, STEP Ukraine is helping Ukrainians to find meaningful employment. Over 40% of employment advisors have lived experience of forced migration, and over 42% speak Ukrainian or Russian ensuring a culturally sensitive environment. Over 800 participants have already found work, and 91% have improved their English.