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Becoming a Better Start Bradford volunteer Community Champion means different things to different people, but for Ali Nahani, 54, the role has given him a real sense of purpose and direction that he did not expect. In his own words, it has given him a ‘second family’.

Here’s Ali’s story

My name is Ali Nahani and I have lived in Bradford since November 2017. I have one son, aged 31, who lives in Iran and I have been a Community Champion since May 2018. Before coming to the UK, I previously had a high-powered job and travelled to many different countries with work. I was so far removed from community life, I now realise that I was lost and that a part of me felt empty. This is one of the reasons I wanted to do some voluntary work. My volunteering journey started when I visited Communityworks to see if there was any voluntary work available within the local community. It was here that I was introduced to Humera Khan from Better Start Bradford’s Family and Community Engagement team.

I have built up some great relationships and have become friends with many of the local parents

Humera talked to me about the Community Champion role at Better Start Bradford and how their volunteers get involved in helping out at events, workshops, supporting campaigns, spreading the word about their projects and talking to families about how they can get involved. This really appealed to me as I believe strongly that our children are the future of our world and it is so important that they get the right start to build a solid future. I then attended one of the Community Champion open days and had an informal chat with Zakra Yasin, who coordinates the Community Champions. I then applied for the role and was successful. The next stage was to attend six half day training sessions spread over six weeks, which were really interesting. We covered lots of topics, including: what is community engagement, self-esteem and confidence and information about the Better Start Bradford programme. We also covered safeguarding and I was so shocked and upset by what can go on behind closed doors that it made me even more determined to be part of this project. I even went away to study more about vulnerable children and adults in our society as I wanted to have as much knowledge as possible to be able to help and care for our children and people. As part of my role, I get involved in family and community events and I loved being part of the first ever Baby Week Bradford in November last year where I helped out at the launch and closing events and at the Audience with a Midwife for dad’s workshop. I also help set up and run events, talk to people about Better Start Bradford projects and help run play activities. As I have been a Community Champion since May last year, I have built up some great relationships and have become friends with many of the local parents. I am even attending a Dads’ Conference hosted by Blackpool Better Start with some of the dads from Better Start Bradford where we will hear from leading experts on working with dads.

The Community Champion role has given me hope for my future

The Community Champion role has given me hope for my future. Although I speak Persian, Arabic and Turkish, English is not my first language, which is very frustrating as I have a very creative mind. I am becoming more confident with the barriers of the language and proud that I am contributing to the future of the children. We live in a very diverse community and we need to give children the best chance by educating parents. I now feel that I have a better balance in my life and I feel much happier in my volunteering role than in the high-powered role I had. Being a Community Champion gives me lots of satisfaction on a personal level. It has changed my life and I have found myself. My son is now 31 and I had forgotten how quickly those early years have gone. It makes me happy to think about those times again and remember him growing up. I’d really recommend volunteering for Better Start Bradford. The training is excellent and the role is so rewarding. Better Start Bradford has become like a second family to me and I even miss the staff and my fellow Community Champions when there isn’t an event happening in the week. The staff are so caring and really make me feel part of the team. I now feel that I am in the heart of the local community, where different cultures and all the people who work for and with Better Start Bradford are working towards to same goal – to give children the best start in life. For me that is a privilege.

Interested in being a Community Champion?

Please contact Emma for an informal chat 07709 643864 or email [email protected]