International Volunteer Day: Celebrating Filsan, our inspirational volunteer

At Katherine Low Settlement, we have around 200 fantastic volunteers who help us deliver our services to local communities. We wanted to celebrate international volunteer’s day by introducing you to Filsan Osman. A Somali-Kenyan woman who volunteers for our ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) programme, our crèche and our Love to Learn homework club for refugees. This article will share with you about her background, her motivations and experiences of volunteering for KLS.

Whilst growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, Filsan quickly developed a strong sense of social consciousness. Her father was a humanitarian working in various locations overseas for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Through the example he set, she learned that giving back to her community is an important responsibility. A value that has stayed with her to this day.

After learning at an international school in Nairobi, Filsan went on to study entrepreneurship at university. She had long been drawn to the idea of being her own boss, so this seemed the perfect fit. After graduating, she moved to Dubai to work as an assistant manager for a trading company. Her husband had mentioned the idea of moving to England, but Filsan had always been reluctant, wanting to stay where she had built a career for herself. After becoming pregnant, she started to see things differently. Thinking of her son, she started to reconsider a move to England, as she felt this would be the best place for him to get an education. This led them to move the 4,500 miles north-west to Battersea in London after the birth of her baby boy.

Upon arriving in the UK, it took Filsan a little while to get over the initial shock that London isn’t quite as glamorous as the media might portray. It wasn’t long before she came to hear of Katherine Low Settlement and our community centre in Battersea. A relative of her husband was enrolled on KLS’s ESOL programme, trying to improve their English skills. Alongside business, Filsan has a strong interest in teaching. Therefore, she felt volunteering on the ESOL programme could be good experience for her whilst also giving back to the Battersea community.

Being bright, personable and fluent in English, Somali and Swahili, Filsan was a great addition to the ESOL team. When Somali students were struggling during lessons, Filsan would be able to find creative ways to help them learn, as she understood their language and could use this insight to help them overcome linguistic barriers that might be difficult to explain in English.

Soon after, Filsan started volunteering in the KLS crèche. She needed to use the crèche for her son, and therefore it made sense to volunteer there where she could look after her son and other young children too. In addition to this, her interest in the education of children led her to volunteer for KLS’s Love to Learn homework club for refugees. On her first day volunteering for Love to Learn, she was asked to help interpret a conversation between a Somali parent and the homework club coordinator. She realised that she could be very useful for interpretation within the club to ensure there is good communication between parents and the people who run the club. It is by facilitating communication in these ways that she feels she can really sense the difference she is making at KLS.

Filsan said “I felt that I belonged at KLS very soon after starting here.” This meant a lot to her because feeling part of a community is often one of the largest hurdles to overcome when moving to a new country. She said she “loves the people at KLS”, referring to everyone from the staff and the volunteers to the people who come and use the community centre. She expressed how surprised she was by how much KLS do as a charity for the local community, initially thinking they only provided ESOL classes. She said “It’s huge! It’s massive what they do for the local community.” Filsan hopes to continue volunteering with KLS for the foreseeable future, as she enjoys the challenges, the rewards and the satisfaction of making a difference.

Looking forward, Filsan is currently enrolled on a community leadership course. She is pleased to continue her volunteering journey with KLS, and most of all she is enjoying looking after her baby boy who is now nearly 2 years old. She is finding clarity in her long-term ambitions, but hopes to one day bring together her passions for education and business, perhaps helping to run a school.

There is no better way to finish this article than to thank Filsan for the incredible contribution she continues to have toward Katherine Low Settlement. We feel very lucky to have her as a volunteer and are looking forward to seeing where her adventure in England takes her.

Would you like to find out more about volunteering at KLS? We have a diverse range of opportunities. Find out more at: www.klsettlement.org.uk/volunteer

You can continue to follow the work of KLS on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We’d also be very grateful if you can make a regular donation at www.klsettlement.org.uk/donate.

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