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“I know what the meaning of abuse is, it’s not something I read in books it’s something I feel.”
“If someone tells me how they feel they don’t need to say a lot because I will just understand without embarrassing them or asking questions.”
Hiba Nour, 37, has just finished three years studying for her social work degree, she came to the UK eight years ago after feeling unsafe in her home country of Sudan.
“I know about oppression and discrimination because in my country as a female you can be discriminated against and oppressed just for being a woman. One of the reasons I wanted to become a social worker is because I have been abused before.”
On leaving Sudan, Hiba says all she knew about social workers was from watching films where children were taken away from their parents. However after becoming homeless when she arrived in England and coming across social workers herself, Hiba became inspired by their work. She says: “I got some help when I first arrived here in England. I met with some social workers and I started to understand their work was not about snatching children, it was about advocating on behalf of families in need and referring them to services that would be helpful so they could actually stay together. Until then I had no idea social workers could make such positive changes to people’s lives.”
After things started to turn around for Hiba, she started volunteering at the Bridge Community Education Centre, in Brighton, where she completed courses in children and social care. She then worked at the Ethnic Minority Achievement Service, in the city, supporting Arabic speaking children. It was after this, she decided to study social work at the University of Sussex, because of the courses ‘reputation’.
She credits the degree for helping her to understand more about herself. Hiba says: “Before I started the course I had no clue what people meant by ‘identity’, however through the first year things started to make sense in my own life. The course and what I learnt early on, gave me a real sense of self-awareness which I hadn’t had before."
For someone whose first language isn’t English, it wasn’t always easy studying in the UK. Hiba says: “It was very challenging at times, but my tutors and peers were very supportive. I found the University of Sussex to be a really safe space where I could share by anxieties and feelings. If I felt drained I always knew there was someone to talk to.”
On her proudest moment since starting her degree Hiba says: “At our graduation party recently the course leader was giving out the ‘outstanding achievement award’. He was talking about a certain student who was very professional, resilient and had met challenging situations head-on. Then he said my name and that was one of the proudest moments of my life!”
Following finishing her course, Hiba has been offered a job within children’s services. She says finally: “Things are so much better for me now. I’m having a U-turn in my life and I really want to use my own experiences to help others.”