Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

She's a Friend Indeed

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

She's a Friend Indeed

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jennifer Bradbury

Physically, Shamim Arshad is not a big woman. She's slim and attractive, dressed in a traditional and beautiful powder blue and gold sari.

But when it comes to helping others, her capacity for offering emotional support and practical advice is enormous.

Just ask the people she's helped over the years.

And now her achievements, carried out through voluntary work she does with Gateshead's Visible Ethnic Minorities Support Group, have at last been recognised.

Earlier this month she was a winner in the very first Tyne & Wear Diversity Awards organised by Northumbria Police and the North East Centre for Diversity and Racial Equality (NECDARE).

Shamim, pictured, won her award in the Women's Development Category.

Every week, Shamim and the volunteers attached to the Visible Ethnic Minorities Support Group host a drop-in session for asylum seekers and refugee mothers and children at Bensham Community Centre, Sidney Grove, Bensham.

The mum-of-three also helps run a mum and child group on Thursday nights and a Saturday afternoon language class for asylum seekers.

She's been with the charity for the past 10 years and, before that, worked for five years as a language co-ordinator with the Racial Equality Council, a post she enjoyed very much.

It was back in 1978 that the newly married Shamim, who lived in Pakistan, moved to the North East to be with her husband, who was living in Newcastle.

"I didn't like it at all," she admits. "I was 23, and my father was in the army and I'd enjoyed a much better life. Here I had to do everything myself."

Even now Shamim misses Pakistan, and has only returned to her homeland five or six times in the past quarter of a century.

But now Newcastle is her home, and she's doing all she can to help others who are newly-arrived in this country. …

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