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Naheeda’s success story – How WICT and the St Mary’s Local Conversation project have changed her life

St Mary’s Local Conversation is one of the projects that WICT supports and is funded by Peoples Health Trust. Naheeda reached out to WICT to get involved in the project and it has really changed her life. She is now the Chair of St Mary’s and Kingsland Action Group which run the local conversation project. We asked her some questions about her time supporting the project.

Tell us a bit about your background.

In 2011, I came to the UK and I felt very lonely. I knew no one. I didn’t know where to go. I was struggling with education and finding a job. Eventually, I got a beauty job. I trained for 2 months, then I was offered a job in Weymouth. It was too far to travel from Southampton so I didn’t take it. I wanted to be busy, so I got this job and on weekends I was going to the parks and saw members of the community. I started helping them through tasks such as filling in forms, adapting to life in the UK, and taking exams etc.

They were asking me if I knew of any English classes and activities for women. I was also struggling and trying to find something to help them. I can’t forget when I met an elderly lady in the park who told me, “you are educated, you can speak English, tell the council to make some activities for ladies only.”  There were activities, but they had no knowledge of them. Then I decided to set up a group and gather all the people I was helping in the community together, so day by day, people were inviting others to join my group until it reached to more than 350 families! This was before I came to West Itchen Community Trust.

Naheeda in the middle

Naheeda in the middle

What made you reach out to WICT?

One day I saw Abdoulie in front of Ropewalk Centre near to a Somalian shop and he was talking with a Somali lady about making a swimming session for ladies; this is when I started to find out more and know about WICT.

I then met Abdoulie and Alex, WICT’s Community Organisers. I invited Abdoulie to our Eid party which was the first Afghani women group gathering. There were 250 ladies. Abdoulie came and spoke to them and asked what they needed, so after that, my the community chose me as their leader and I started creating projects for all.


What have you achieved at WICT and in the local conversation project and where are you now?

I founded St Mary’s and Kingsland Action Group which aims to take action in the community to bring everyone together, help people build confidence and make new friends. I am still the Chair for St Mary’s and Kingsland Action group and work in the community voluntarily to help people find out what’s happening and how they can get involved. I encourage and support local residents to participate in local activities such as swimming, education and so on, or set up a local community project.

I have participated in running a cycling group, gym group, English classes, spinning group, yoga group, swimming group, and a breakfast group at my time at WICT and the local conversation project.

I have also run one off events like a fashion show, henna and a large number of very successful community ‘get together’ events. These events are great opportunities for local people to come together, meet each other, chat about local issues and above all, have a good time and fun together.

I will soon be setting up a child and mums group and I am supporting two other local people in setting up two more community projects which will benefit the whole community – so everyone is welcome!

         Food and meal event

How has getting involved with WICT and the St Mary’s Local Conversation project benefitted you?

I am no longer lonely. I never dreamed I could know so many people. I now get people coming up to me frequently to ask about local opportunities and how they can get involved. My life feels fulfilled, I am more confident and active and I am doing what I love, helping people. I get to build relationships and engage members of the community to help them improve their lives through making new friends and learning a new skill.

When I work with people in the community and help them get involved it makes me happy. I feel empowered. By helping others and empowering people I feel empowered too.

I have gained lots of experience from Alex and Abdoulie at WICT and have overcome many obstacles myself. I have also developed great team working skills, a new awareness about the area and local opportunities for growth. I am very grateful for all of those at WICT for my journey and how it has helped me in my life.


We would like to thank Naheeda for sharing her story!

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