I remember the first time I visited Oasis, it was on a Thursday at the end of September in 2014. My boys went to school and my husband said to me

Now we can go out and see what is going on in the community, there is a nice organisation that helps refugees and asylum seekers”.

I was excited to visit.
When I arrived Reynette was sat at reception, she had an iPad in front of her and she said to me in Arabic

Hello, Welcome, please sign in

I will never forget that it was a great time and I am pleased that we went there.

I grew up in Sudan, near the Red Sea. My boys still remember it which surprises me, because they were young when we moved here, so I never thought they would remember it, especially the youngest.
They still remember playing in the white sand when we visited my Mother In Law.
They remember the watermelon we would always eat. It was a certain type of watermelon that is white, sweet and juicy. 
And they remember their friends and our neighbours.

The thing that I miss the most about Sudan is my culture, everything is different in Sudan; we wear different clothes, eat different food, live in different houses.
I also miss being able to visit anyone at any time of the day and check if they are okay or see if they need anything. Here, everyone is busy busy busy so you have to organise visits.
I miss the daily routine, in Sudan school would finish at 1:30pm and work would finish at 4pm so there was always plenty of time to go and visit family and friends. In the UK by the time you are finished, especially in the winter it is dark so most people go home. 

Back home people usually live in the square so it’s easy to go there and visit.
For example, if someone passes away all of the women in the square get together and make food for the relatives and community.
Here you don’t really have that unless you know the relatives well.    

However, Cardiff is so multicultural and welcoming. When I settled here I felt I was able to bring my culture here and use it as a way to connect with people.

For example, in Sudan, it is part of our culture to share a meal with your neighbour and once you have offered your neighbour a meal, the dish should never return to you empty, something should be made for you in return. This is our culture.
In Cardiff, I made my British neighbours a Vegetable Sambusca which they loved and when they returned the dish to me they gave me a big bag of chips and they were really tasty. 

The first four or five months here in Cardiff I didn’t meet anyone from my country until I went to Oasis. I had one friend who used to call and visit me regularly, and she told me where I could buy vegetables and introduced me to City Road, but at that time I was too scared to go alone. The only thing I would do for a while would be; go to Oasis for English class and then go home, I never tried to go anywhere else without my husband. 

But when we did go out together that was when we started to discover Cardiff properly, it took us a while but Oasis helped us with this.

Attending English and regular activities at Oasis helped me a lot, for a while when people spoke to me in English I would know what to say to them in my head but I would choose not to speak, maybe because I was scared about making a mistake.
There was a really lovely volunteer at Oasis who would help me learn about British culture and what was the appropriate thing to say or do here. 

All of the staff and volunteers at Oasis helped me a lot with this. 

After a while, I started volunteering in the kitchen and I began to learn all the names of the spices and kitchen equipment, for a long time I only knew ‘knife’ but now I know them all!

Once I felt comfortable to go out alone I visited Oasis every weekday, I was never at home and I kept myself busy. I met Mari and helped her with the Oasis Cardiff mobile exhibition to help spread awareness about refugees and asylum seekers which was such a good opportunity for me because it gave me more confidence to speak.
I was doing something different every day at Oasis which was really good for me.

Once I had completed the English course at Cardiff and Vale College I was keen to work in an admin role again, back in Sudan I worked in a private college as an admin worker. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do an admin course but I found a part-time accountant course instead. Last year I finished this course and began working in a paid role as Administrator and Finance at Oasis Cardiff, I have such amazing support from the rest of the staff and I feel lucky to be part of the team.

I live about a 3-4 minutes walk from Oasis and even when I am not working I always go in to say hello, it’s like my second home.
Oasis is like the salt in our food, if we didn’t put it in, it wouldn’t taste.