I was told by a friend there was a women’s group in Balsall Heath that had an amazing adventure activity scheme for young girls – the organiser Naseem Akhtar was really something! She said I should go along and meet her maybe see if there was any opportunity to volunteer? I rang apprehensively and was invited to the Balsall Heath Community Forum.

I went for an informal chat with Naseem – hoping to be given the opportunity to volunteer so I could take part in all the fun activities they had on – I had always wanted to try horse riding; canoeing, climbing and learn how to ride a bike!!

I had just moved back to Birmingham after graduating and it was hard to know what I could do next – I was an adult in the big world of work, but I really was clueless about what to do next in life?! I was lost.

I arrived early as I had never heard of the Balsall Heath Forum and was surprised by what I discovered – a small garden centre with an office in a pagoda at the back!! I knocked and went in not sure if I was in the right place? There was a lot of hustle and bustle and I was suddenly overwhelmed.

However, my nerves were short lived as I taken upstairs and, in the chaos, met Naseem where I presented my CV and was put at ease.  Naseem gave me the background to Saheli Women’s Group – she was friendly and had a vision.  I left the meeting hoping that a volunteering opportunity would open.

A short while later I received a call to come and interview for a paid position – I was very excited but did not have much experience – would I be qualified, what were they going to ask me? I arrived at the BHF and I remember being dressed formally but chose to wear pointy burgundy shoes – they were smart but uncomfortable!! My feet were sore, and it was painful to walk – why had I worn these shoes I thought.

Naseem drove me to Mary Beasley’s (BHF Chair) house and I sat facing Dick, Mary and Naseem.  The interview was a mixture of what I had done and what they were doing and my thoughts and experiences.

I had another interview at a women’s refuge as I had been peddling out my CV to numerous organisations.  But when I received the call from Saima (Saheli Chair) I accepted – I was excited to be part something different, and innovative.  I had read up on the BHF and was impressed by the buzz of everybody doing their thing their way.

Naseem and the team were welcoming and down to earth doing work that was helping and bringing new opportunities for people across the community.  I was part of a team who wanted to make changes for the betterment of the community they lived and worked in – working from the ground up.   I have never looked back and have learnt so much and done lots of exciting things.  Anybody wanting to try something new and needing some support come get involved in the Saheli Hub – you will find friendship, support and encouragement like no other.

Rakhyia joined Saheli Hub in April 2005.