The success story that almost didn’t happen

Diversity Matters’ Hasina Khanom is a true success story for the charity. Her achievements are extraordinary and the work she has done over the past nearly 9 years, is incredible. But Hasina didn’t seem to be destined for such success to begin with.

Coming across Diversity Matters (DMNW) in the first place was a life-changing event for Hasina. She didn’t know it at the time, but stepping foot into DMNW’s base at the Healthy Living Centre in Hyde, was going to change her life.

From Bangladesh to Hyde

Hasina was born and raised in Bangladesh. She arrived in the UK in 2010 and first came to Hyde Community Action (now DMNW) later that year after noticing a flyer that was posted through the door at her brother’s house. At the time she was isolated and had such low confidence, that despite having a university degree from Bangladesh, and speaking English, she initially joined DMNW intending to do an ESOL class!

Her first year with DMNW was spent accessing a number of the same training courses that she has since helped organise and run, including employment support, health training and many more. During this time she also started volunteering with DMNW, despite being apprehensive at first.

Hasina explains: “I never expected I would be able to do so much and I didn’t think they would take me on as a volunteer. But the workers were very helpful and friendly and I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. I attended a one to one induction which was really good and made me feel welcome. They introduced me to other staff and basically treated me like I was already a part of the team. I got to know all about DMNW and what they did. It was excellent and I was very encouraged.”

As a volunteer, Hasina’s confidence grew slowly. She soon played a big part in the activities in the centre and helped design courses that are still running to this day, 9 years later. She also started to volunteer and apply for jobs in other places and she started to believe, that she had the ability to get out and do things. She carried on volunteering with DMNW, despite securing a part time role in a school, and when a role became available at DMNW, she decided to apply.

“I wasn’t confident in applying at the time and I kept thinking I wouldn’t get the job. But my supervisor was very supportive and after that, I felt that there was no stopping me.” says Hasina.

A turning point in Tameside

The employment with DMNW became a second defining moment for Hasina.

Hasina explains: “My first role with DMNW was as a trainee and it helped me to develop a lot. I started taking small steps but found myself taking bigger and bigger steps forward and started to do things differently without even realising.”

During her time with DMNW Hasina’s role changed a number of times as the different funding streams into the charity gave way to more and more responsibilities and exposure for Hasina. She went from Trainee Development Worker to different Development worker roles, worked as a BAME Community Liaison worker, as Learning and Employability Coordinator, and is currently DMNW’s Volunteer Coordinator – a role she has had since 2018.  

In her current role, Hasina oversees a large cohort of volunteers, who on many occasions need a lot of one to one support, as they are often new to the area and country, have low confidence and speak only little or no English. But Hasina uses her own experience constructively. She gives the DMNW volunteers the support they need to realise their own skills and talents and gain confidence too. She is incredibly empathetic in her approach, has loads of initiative and is an inspiration to others and a role model who always takes the time to support and help others, in the office, on the phone or in the street.

In addition to looking after volunteers, Hasina has started the Bright Future Volunteering programme and she leads on community events too. As a colleague and working in partnership with other organisations in Tameside, everyone knows they can rely on her skills, her ideas and her initiative to make things happen.

DMNW Chief Officer, Rehana Begum, explains: “Hasina’ s journey has been extraordinary to say the least, and I have been privileged to be part of that journey. Her commitment, willingness and drive to learn, grow and help others is inspirational and she is a role model for all of the women she has and continues to support, to this day!”

The knock-on effects

When staff turn up to work in the morning, and when volunteers come in during the day, Hasina’s contagious smile makes everyone happy. She is very approachable and has a wealth of knowledge. Anything from structuring lessons for maximum effect to immigration issues. And what she doesn’t know, she will find out, if it means helping someone else. Because Hasina gets satisfaction from making a difference in someone’s life.

Her incredibly friendly nature lets anyone from the most vulnerable and insecure volunteers and service users, to DMNW’s partners, feel able to open up, be honest and share with her. And she never abuses that trust. Instead she gives her all and at the same time she takes each experience as an opportunity to learn and grow herself.

She explains: “Every single person I work with, I always try to learn from them and utilize those skills from them in my own life and work. I believe that everything we experience as volunteers and staff members teaches us something. And at DMNW I believe we gently push people to get out of their comfort zone and do things, and this starts a ripple effect, like it did with me.”

She concludes: “Everyone should give a little bit more time to volunteer for their community.  To me, DMNW is unique with a very friendly approach, and we have so many examples of great personal and professional progress for our volunteers. But everyone can grow in their community if they take an interest in their surroundings and maybe sign up for volunteering at a local charity. This gives them the opportunity to make a difference and meet new people, which can be a turning point for anyone, who is willing to try.”