Skip to main content

Gaida Dirar, a graduate of the 2019 SiPC in the North-East and current Sanctuary Ambassador and Operational Advisory Group Member shares her experience of the Sanctuary in Politics Course….


Why were you interested in taking part in the Sanctuary in Politics Course?      

I always was interested in the influence of politics and media. So as soon as I received the invitation email for enrolling in the Sanctuary in Politics course I didn’t hesitate to join, attend and contribute as well as starting my project.  

I believe politics played a significant role in the situation I am in now. And this is the field and the place I want to raise my voice within to influence politicians to make them aware of how their decisions could change people’s lives.


What did you learn/gain from the Sanctuary in Politics Course?

I learnt a lot during the three days I spent at Durham University attending the course: an introduction to City of Sanctuary, understanding of the work of the UK Parliament and House of Lords, campaigning for change on human rights and social rights, an introduction to the UK media scene, the role of equality and diversity in UK society and law and the role of a local councillor.


What was your favourite activity in the Sanctuary in Politics course?

One of the best courses I have ever attended as the course fulfilled what I came for and more: it was fun and [there were] a diverse lot of activities, sharing, and singing and smiles. I gained friends and contacts.

The course broke one of the significant barriers that faced me as a refugee, understanding how the media, politics, and law work in the UK. I gained more understanding of how to raise my voice and share my story to highlight the refugee and asylum seekers challenges.


When and how have you put the knowledge and skills gained from the Sanctuary in Politics Course into action since graduating?

I have been empowered to put it in action since day one of the course as the deliverer supported and encouraged us to engage and work together as well as to start our campaign directly before graduation, which was successful, and we used the positive energy we gained from the course.


How would you describe the Sanctuary in Politics course in one sentence?

100% recommended, empowering, supportive, encouraging and most important it is barrier-breaking.  


Why should people seeking sanctuary consider participating in the next Sanctuary in Politics Course?

This course will allow them to recognise and consider the best ways to participate and raise their voices. 

Niloha Rangel, a graduate of the 2019 SiPC in Wale and current Sanctuary Ambassador and VOICES Network Ambassador shares her thoughts on the Sanctuary in Politics Course…

Why were you interested in taking part in the Sanctuary in Politics Course? 

I was interested because being an asylum seeker in the UK you need to know how to defend your human rights and also everybody else’s . I believed that I needed to know every step you have to take to resolve different political issues .

What did you learn?

I understood how the political system works in the UK . The different ways we have to speak up, raise awareness and find a response to problems that affect not only sanctuary seekers but the general community in the UK.  I had no idea how the UK laws were discussed and put into practice. I actually learnt how to develop my skills in order to campaign , advocate and how to use the media to conquer spaces.


What was your favourite activity in the Sanctuary in Politics course ?

I did enjoy the whole training. Every workshop was so productive and engaging . I must admit I felt so thrilled when I visited the Senedd.  I imagined myself being  an assembly member representing sanctuary seekers. I will not give up on my dream because now I have the tools I learnt from the course. At the same time, I met very interesting speakers and sanctuary seekers with different backgrounds and stories which actually gave me the push to keep on advocating. It was interesting to understand the importance of story telling and the power it has to raise awareness and to get empathy from people who are not familiar to what it represents to be an asylum seeker.

When and how have you put the knowledge and  skills  gained from the Sanctuary In Politics course into action since graduating?  

I have become a passionate  advocate of different causes with numerous charitable organisations. For instance , I joined the Lift the Ban coalition forum event in London. Also , I had the opportunity to participate in an event called “Imagine the potential of Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary“, where we highlighted how we could become an asset for this nation. At the same time, we  encouraged participants to work with higher expectations about human rights.

In addition to this, I am one of the producers of a podcast made by asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. We wanted to do this podcast to share our stories , to challenge the stereotypes around asylum seekers and refugees and show how the system could support us better. One of my purposes was to humanise refugees through the podcast.  The VOICES network is campaigning for a fairer asylum system.

Another opportunity was when I represented one of the organisations I volunteer with (TCC) on the local radio in Wrexham on behalf of a training we have been delivering to the local community . Interestingly, the training has had  so much reception that we are planning to make a video to reach a wider audience. 

Currently , I am a member of the National Health Advisors Group with Doctors of the World where we work to promote a fairer access to healthcare for vulnerable groups.

With all the knowledge gained, I was also interested in voting so I cast my first vote in Wales. Putting in action all these tools that I  acquired on the training led me to be a finalist for an award in the humanitarian field. My actions have made an impact in BAME communities.

How would you describe the Sanctuary in Politics course in simple terms? 

It was an amazing experience to learn about politics in the UK and how to implement the new tools acquired. I enjoyed every session so much because all of them were very informative. I met people with different backgrounds and stories who inspired me to fight for human rights not only for sanctuary seekers but for any problem that anyone can encounter.  The program was spectacular, carefully selected, and I learnt how to break the barriers when we are dealing with an issue. For example, what to say, strategies how say it and sound convincing, and where and to whom you should say it .

Why should people seeking sanctuary consider participating in the next Sanctuary in Politics course?

It gives people the confidence to speak out and to have the potential to have our voices heard effectively. I have witnessed the power our voices have. We cannot deny it, our presence creates possibilities. We must empower ourselves and not let other intimidate us. We shouldn’t live in the darkness. We have been forced to migrate for survival, we need protection. We have found ourselves between home and survival, we fled because we had to, not because we wanted to. It is important that people don’t just see the labels, but see the people who hold these experiences.