Community Development Officer, Dumie Matsebanane, draws on his own lived experience to help people arriving in Scotland feel at home in their new communities.

Tell us a bit about your job

Part of my job is about making sure that refugee and asylum-seeking communities across Scotland know about the services that are available to them. I act as a liaison between our Services Team, our Regional Integration Coordinators and the communities themselves.

I also work with public sector bodies and other charities to try and make sure that New Scots have the information they need – about everything from housing to healthcare – in languages they can understand. It’s about helping people to feel included so they can make informed choices and do things for themselves.

The photo above was taken on the first day I arrived in Glasgow, over 15 years ago. I use my lived experience to try and understand what people are going through and put myself in their shoes. If it were me in this situation today, what would I want help with? What support would I need?

What’s the best thing about working for Scottish Refugee Council?

The diverse nature of the work that we do. Also, the multinational and multicultural makeup of the staff at Scottish Refugee Council. I’ve hardly ever been in a workplace where the nationalities have been so varied. Many of my colleagues also have lived experience of humanitarian protection. It helps us to understand the challenges that New Scots face. Having learned from that experience, we want to improve the lives of those who are coming after us.

What’s the most challenging thing about your role?

I began working for Scottish Refugee Council in December 2020, during the pandemic. Working in a community-based role but not being able to go out to meet communities because of the restrictions was really hard. It takes away that human touch that you need for building and maintaining relationships.

Managing expectations about your capacity as an individual and what we can provide as an organisation can also be tricky sometimes. People are looking for us to provide them with answers and get them what they need. I don’t have all the answers, but I will always try to find someone who does. There is usually someone within Scottish Refugee Council who will know what to do – or can refer you to someone who does.

What do you find most rewarding?

Working with people from so many other organisations to find solutions. And seeing how all these groups are coming together to help improve the lives of New Scots and help them to integrate and settle in Scotland.

We recently worked with Public Health Scotland on a project to tackle Covid-19 vaccine misinformation. We had identified that this was an issue in New Scots communities. People weren’t really sure what was going on because the official information was all in English. If you’re new to Scotland and you don’t speak a lot of English, that information isn’t getting through. We worked with communities to provide the correct info in a variety of different languages so it could be shared through local networks.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?

I enjoy cooking and socialising with friends. I may not plate it the same as some of those internet chefs but I do a decent Sunday roast. There’s also a Zimbabwean dish that I cook – pap (ground maize) with greens and beef stew. We’re having trout for dinner tonight. My neighbour likes to go fishing and sometimes he’ll bring me a fish.

I’m also well into my sports. I love watching football and playing tennis and cricket. One of my colleagues put me in touch with a family in Springhill who are originally from Pakistan. The dad and his three boys are very into cricket too. I made a few calls and found him a cricket club he could take his boys to.

Integration isn’t just about finding someone a house to live in and a job to go to. It’s about what people do at the weekend too. Being able to help that dad and his boys to feel like they belong and are part of society is very satisfying.

Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb