Photo of Michaela Sarkozyova

Michaela Sarkozyova

Michaela was born in the Czech Republic but grew up in Slovakia. Leeds was the first place she arrived in 11 years ago and she stayed because she loved the city. She states, however, that one thing she still can’t get used to is the British weather!

Despite struggling as a single parent, she supported members of her family over the years to integrate in the UK, as well as others from her community.

Michaela found that people from her community would stop her on the street, in the shops, or knocked on her door for support. Michaela has good spoken English and a good understanding of services, and this has been a key reason why others ask for her help.

Who will the initiative help/who has it helped already?

With austerity and cuts to provision, but with growing demand for vital services, Michaela has made the most of volunteering opportunities. She used contacts made through regular attendance at the council’s Migrant Access Project drop-in to learn and improve access to services.

She ran conversation classes to different women’s groups and fed back to services on the issues around domestic violence. In turn, this led to a specialist service coming in to provide support.

Michaela has recently been successful in bidding for Big Lottery funding. This funding has enabled her to run Vison, Advocacy and Employment on a weekly basis, supporting her community with signposting and advocacy.

What’s worked?

Michaela is keen to support all those that she can, regardless of their background. Her approach led her to work in partnership with an organisation which supports refugees and asylum seekers.

It was a positive learning experience for both parties and added value to the respective services. Earlier this year, Michaela also had the opportunity to attend a conference in Lisbon about Roma Inclusion. There, she was invited to give both a talk and an interview, an experience of a lifetime.

She shared her experience with reference to her community in particular, saying that cities in Europe do care about Roma people but that they should do more for themselves.

What have you learnt? Any challenges?

There are ongoing challenges to deal with. The current climate of Brexit has added more challenges to her community, who are unclear if they should leave or remain. Michaela has supported them with raising awareness of hate crime and assisting them with reporting such incidents.

Michaela always feeds back to services so that they can consider issues and find solutions. She finds it challenging to have conversations with her community on safeguarding as this was non-existent in her home country, so she has approached specialist services to support her.

What’s next?

Michaela has learned so much over the years and has developed personally. She has increased confidence and encourages others in her community to volunteer and develop themselves too.

She is in the process of applying for further funding to help her with resources, so that she can expand on the work she is doing.

What advice, contacts or resources would help you?

Michaela says “‘The more the council shares the work it does around migration in the city, the more opportunities we have to influence change.”

Why we’re sharing these stories

An individual or organisation from each of our five categories will be recognised at our Igniting Inspiration recognition event in November, but we want to publish all relevant stories to spread awareness of all the positive work that goes on in our region!

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