An active life helping the community

Jacques' story

GMT 12:27 Tuesday ,14 April 2015

 Migrant Voice - Jacques' story

Photo of Jacques and his wife.
Jacques Matensi-Kubanza

I used to live in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1998 I graduated from the Catholic University in Kinsasha, Congo. After graduation I ran a family haulage business and also set up a “Bureau d’etude” / Consulting Office in Management of Development Projects. I became involved in the opposition to the Government and as a consequence of this I left DRC and travelled to the UK seeking sanctuary as a political refugee. When I came to the UK I was sent to Peterborough where I spent almost three years as an asylum seeker. As I could hardly speak English, having been born in a French speaking country, I accessed ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) from Intermediate Level at Peterborough Regional College.

In 2004 I became the first ESOL student to receive the award at the college. As well as learning English I volunteered with the British Red Cross and took an active part to set up a community association for African refugees and asylum seekers called “Peterborough African Community Organisation” (PACO). After having been granted Refugee status I moved to the West Midlands and continued my English Course at City College in Handsworth, Birmingham. Having been granted refugee status I was able to attend a variety of job training opportunities. My first paid work was working as a general labourer in warehouses through employment agencies. I eventually found work in the care industry and was employed as a Support Worker by Midland Mencap supporting adults with learning difficulties. I worked for this organisation for 6 years from June 2006 till February 2013. During my time at MENCAP, thanks to my managers, I completed NVQ Level 2 and 3 in Health and Social Care at Josiah Mason College in Birmingham. My wife, Mrs. Zizina Matensi-Kubanza, came from Congo and started working after just 3 months of her arrival. She has also supported numerous fellow members of the community to access the job market.

In 2009, I stopped working on full time basis and started studying for a University degree in Social Care and Social Policy at the University of Wolverhampton. In September 2012 I successfully completed my degree after three years and obtained the BA (Hons) in Social Care and Social Policy. In February 2013, I secured a job with Swanswell Charitable Trust as Supporting People Worker. Swanswell is a national charity that supports people to become free from problem alcohol and drug use. My current role consists of providing support, advice and information to service users. I assist service users apply for the right benefits; access independent accommodation obtain household items; budget their money and pay bills; keep their house safe and in good repair; attend appointments; get into voluntary or paid work and develop leisure interests and attend peer support groups for recovery.

I have been actively involved in community development since moving to the UK. I started volunteering with the British Red Cross in Peterborough. I was involved in helping to set up a community association for African refugees and asylum seekers called “Peterborough African Community Organisation” (PACO). When I moved to the West Midlands, I joined a group of friends from Africa and set up another community association called MACHO (Eye for help community association). In 2010, MACHO became “African French Speaking Community Support” (AFSCS). In February 2012 we managed to secure charity registration. The AFSCS is based in Smethwick, Sandwell. The AFSCS provides one-to-one support to migrants whose first language is not English and is also very active within the local community in Smethwick. Trustees and volunteers assist clients with a range of activities such as: interpretations and translation in many language (French, Swahili, Lingala, Portuguese, Spanish, Kikongo, Kinwaranda and Kirundi), job search & coaching, interview preparation, befriending, companionship, campaign for awareness raising, the organisation of public events, youth activities, guidance and signposting, counselling,  advice and helping to complete a variety of application forms. We are currently providing a range of activities, for instance: Sport activities for young people a young people; Zumba dance for women; we host an After school club/Saturday Homework club attended by 43 children and young people; Dance for young people; a Saturday Befriending club attended by families. We also provide coaching for jobs, advice, and benefit check on one-to-one basis. We are currently providing a range of activities, for instance: Sport activities attended by 46 young people; Zumba dance attended by 16 women; After school club/Saturday Homework club attended by 43 children and young people; Dance attended by 18 young people; Saturday Befriending club attended by 12 families (36 people). I am currently the elected Chair of the AFSCS part of a Management Committee consisting of 8 members. My remits as the Chair consist of: making sure that the charity complies with the laws and Charity Commission’s requirements; making applications for funding; I represent the charity and network with other organisations. We are most grateful to all our funders (including BBC Children in Need, People Health Trust).

Life in the UK is very different from my home country. People in the UK are more helpful and committed to support vulnerable people living in the community. More support is available through volunteers and some members of the community are dedicated to give their free time for the benefit of the whole community. This is case of members from Soho and Victoria Ward in Smethwick who have set up a Community Interest Company called “Friends & Neighbours Soho & Victoria CIC”. There is more freedom, including freedom of speech in this than in my home country. There are many voluntary organisations helping vulnerable people in the community. Members of the community always give their money for the benefit of vulnerable people of the community event for supporting projects in the third world.




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