City of Sanctuary: How four refugees had their lives turned around - and how they are giving back to Portsmouth

(left to right), Walid Adenas and boxing coach Q Shillingworth with Walids brother Ahmed who has become a boxing champion since arriving in the UK from Sudan. Pictured too are Shamila Dhana and Frances Pilling from the Red Cross.'Picture Ian Hargreaves  (170734-1)
(left to right), Walid Adenas and boxing coach Q Shillingworth with Walids brother Ahmed who has become a boxing champion since arriving in the UK from Sudan. Pictured too are Shamila Dhana and Frances Pilling from the Red Cross.'Picture Ian Hargreaves (170734-1)
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THANKS to the support of organisations in the city, four people had help to turn their lives around and are now giving back to their community.

Shamila Dhana started volunteering with the Red Cross when she was homeless.

The 36-year-old from Zimbabwe says it saved her life.

She is now vice president for Hampshire of Red Cross and runs drop-in clinics and a women's group. 

This year she won The Pamodzi Inspirational Women Award in the Community Volunteer Category, and was chosen out of 300 women from across the world as 2019’s Inspirational & Innovative Female Winner at the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Society.

Shamila said: ‘Going along to the weekly sessions from The Red Cross helped me not to feel so isolated.

‘I’m grateful to them and so happy I can give back through my role at the organisation.’

The Red Cross is one of more than 80 organisations that have teamed up to tackle vulnerability across the city by launching Portsmouth as a City of Sanctuary.

The network, which includes Portsmouth Football Club and the University of Portsmouth, aims to connect projects and services.

Shamila added: ‘I think this is a really good scheme and it means no one will be left out of support because the right group can be found to help them.’

Boxing brothers, Ahmed Adenas and Walid Adenas, fled war-torn Sudan as children in 2011.

They had lost family and friends during the conflicts but were taken under the wing of Portsmouth boxing coach Q Shillingford and supported by the Red Cross.

Ahmed, 23, said: ‘The Red Cross was a huge support for us. It means a lot to have someone to turn to.’

Speaking about the City of Sanctuary scheme, Ahmed added: ‘It will mean anyone can have the support they need to get back up when they are in a bad place and change their life.’

Another woman from Pakistan who found refuge in the city volunteered with the Red Cross as an English teacher.

She was offered a scholarship to do her CELTA qualification and now offers free English classes in Portsmouth to give back to the community.

To find out more visit portsmouth.cityofsanctuary.org/