Case study

Matt and Asad

29 year old Matt Foster lives in Southeast London and is Head of International Affairs at the Royal College of Physicians. Since February, Matt has been mentoring Asad Amiri, a refugee from Afghanistan.

33 year old Asad, who now lives in Northwest London, was a doctor in his home country and, o­nce he has passed his English exam, plans to take the medical exams in order to practice as a doctor in the UK.  Asad hopes to become a GP.

Matt and Asad first met at a Time Together mentor matching party.  Asad says:

“As soon as I met Matt, I thought - I want this man to be my mentor! Because he knows so much about refugee doctors who have come to the UK, I knew he would be able to help me.”

Matt says:

“Asad and I have a lot in common. When we first met, we started talking about medical issues.

“Asad is very confident and his English is very good, so he didn’t need to be shown around London, we were straight away able to concentrate o­n navigating his way around the medical system.”

Asad was a doctor working for the Red Cross in a remote part of Afghanistan. He was forced to leave the country when the war and the political system meant he could no longer carry out his job. He says:

“If you’re not from this country, sometimes you just don’t know what doors you need to knock o­n. Matt has helped me to make my CV better and to apply for jobs. The way to write a CV back home is very different from what it is like here. Matt’s knowledge means he has been able to explain different job titles to me and which jobs I should be applying for. He has introduced me to websites and email job alerts.

“Without Matt’s help, it could have taken me 2-3 years to reach this point. The bond we have between us means it has been easy for me to ask him questions that I might have been afraid to ask someone else. Time Together is doing a fantastic job, it was my o­nly opportunity to meet a local person who could help me.

“I know that Matt is very busy with his job but as well as our meetings, he will email me or ask his contacts for information. I really appreciate that he spends so much time with me, it is no easy thing to be so committed. I would like to be more like Matt, it makes me want to do more to help people in the way that he does.”

Matt says Asad’s conversational English has greatly improved and Asad has also noticed a difference in the response to job applications:

“I’m now getting responses which I wasn’t getting before. I now have a better CV, I know how to contact hospitals and I know what jobs to apply for – what the job titles mean.”

Matt has also learnt a lot from Asad; they talk about religion, what’s happened in Afghanistan and what is going o­n right now. When they’re not working o­n Asad’s career, the pair visit the British Museum or simply go for a walk. Matt says:

“I started volunteering for Time Together because I strongly believe in equality and that everyone should have the best opportunity to succeed in what they want to do. My job means that I have a good idea of what refugee doctors need to do to practise again in the UK, so it’s great to be able to put this to good use.

“There are so many hurdles that someone has to go through as a refugee, but it’s easy to make a difference to their lives in very small ways. For example, just explaining to Asad what the different job titles mean has made a huge impact o­n his job-hunting.

“Time Together is an amazing experience. It is very interesting to meet people with such different life experiences from you. Being a mentor has improved my communications skills and given me new perspectives in my work.”

Matt has taken part in Time Together before, has also met refugees through his work and a close friend of his girlfriend is a refugee. He says:

“I find people are always different and surprising in unique ways. Likewise, I don’t think my peer group has any preconceptions about refugees. Many of my friends and family volunteer for lots of different causes, including mentoring, and find it a rewarding experience.”

Asad has also had very positive experiences with UK citizens since he has been in the country:

“I’ve always had a very warm welcome in the UK. Before coming to London, I was studying in Newcastle. The other students and my tutor helped me a lot, which I always appreciated.

“My children are very happy here. They have found it easy to pick up the language and love watching the TV. They don’t have the same feeling of being somewhere else, as they don’t remember anything different. I have to learn to feel that I am at home here.”