Afghani social worker advocates for women and refugees

News News & events

05 Dec 2017

Ruby Sadat remembers the moment she was inspired to enrol in the Social Work degree at Ara Institute of Canterbury and gain the skills she needed to better help her community.

Working with Christchurch Resettlement Services (CRS) at the time, she was helping fellow refugees who were impacted by the Christchurch earthquakes and struggled to access mental health services, due to language and cultural barriers.  

Ara graduate Ruby Sadat is advocating for refugees and helping them to access services.

“One day a staff member from CRS saw my work with a family and she turned around and told me, “you will make an amazing social worker”, Ruby recalls.

“Hearing this really inspired me and I could see myself making a real difference in people’s lives. I had the heart and the passion; my past experience in life and my background had a lot to do with why I was so passionate about wanting to make a positive change in people’s life.”

Now a graduate Social Worker, Ruby is already sought after to share her inspirational story and her passion for giving a voice to the voiceless. She spoke at Broad-ly Speaking in Christchurch last week, sharing the programme with inspiring and accomplished women including Deb Alleyne – Prison Director at Christchurch Women's Prison and Hon Margaret Austin - former New Zealand politician. “We've never had a story quite like this incredible woman's feature at Broad-ly Speaking,” event organisers said.

Ruby first arrived in New Zealand with her family as asylum seekers from Afghanistan. Her background gives her a unique insight into the challenges faced by refugees in Christchurch.

“The aftermath of the Canterbury September earthquake caused many people, especially those from refugee background, to suffer emotionally and mentally such as PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]. Witnessing this I knew I had to do something. I decided to do some volunteering for a number of refugee families. It all started with doing little jobs such as making doctors’ appointments for those who did not know how to make an appointment due to the language barrier, interpreting for Farsi speaking people to ensure that they understood and were able to communicate their needs and health conditions, and taking them to their doctor’s appointments. I would then encourage the refugees and migrants to utilize the health care services that were available to them but that they did not know how to access.”

Recently accepted into a Masters in Counselling program at the University of Canterbury, Ruby will further develop her skills to help people acknowledge and talk about mental health issues.

She will also continue her volunteering work with the Afghan community and the wider society.

“Cultural and language barriers can discourage some people from seeking help so I want to be the person who gets to sit down with them to listen to their stories and provide guidance when necessary. As part of working with people diagnosed with mental health issues, I want to continue advocating for women and give them a voice so they can stand up for themselves and for their rights as equal human beings.”