Photo of Kidist Teklemariam

Kidist Teklemariam

Kidist Teklemariam has been nominated by Inspiring Women Changemakers member, Liza Kellett of Trust Leeds, which issued Kidist with a micro loan to support her work. Liza says “Kidi is exactly the woman you describe – she doesn’t know how awesome she is and she’d never put herself forward for an award.

A refugee from Ethiopia, she previously worked with, and for, disadvantaged communities as a socio-economist where stakeholders included the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ministries and Banks; and also for the Ministry of Urban Development where she worked to mainstream gender issues at policy level.

Arriving alone in this country at 35, she explains, “I struggled a lot to reach here and want to make sure others do not have similar challenges.”

She has volunteered/is volunteering as a Sales Assistant at Oxfam, as a Language Assistant, Interpreter and bilingual Receptionist for the Refugee Education, Training, Advice Service (RETAS) while a student at Leeds Beckett University. On graduating she was appointed as a Training & Employment Advisor with RETAS, a charity which is greatly supportive or her plans.”

Who has she helped/ who will she help?

“Over two years, she combined her MSC in Entrepreneurship & Business Development with researching and piloting her new business whose purpose is to give direction and all available support for refugees to that their latent and skills and knowledge can be leveraged. In September 2019, Kidi set up a social enterprise called UPR: Unleashing Refugee Potential – supporting the employability and entrepreneurship of refugee professionals and those who passed through the asylum-seeking process.

Kidi’s pilot, conducted whilst at University, resulted in her supporting 19 people into employment, and she has now achieved 54 satisfied clients who appreciate her range of services and her going ‘beyond the call of duty’ to help them find work or set up on their own.”

What’s worked?

Liza says “While volunteering at RETAS,  Kidi observed a lack of support for people during the transition period from asylum-seeker to refugee, and a successful project was therefore developed: she likes thinking outside the box and leveraging her own experiences and expertise of contrary and complex system to create new process, solutions and opportunities.”

What has she learnt? Any challenges?

“Kidist says “My journey to get to know all the process to get into University, being on benefits and designing my business and getting employed…all was stressful. I want to be part of the solution in easing the process of integration.”

What’s next?

“Kidi has taken the plunge and formally launched her business while still working as a Training & Employment Advisor at RETAS (Refugee Education, Training, Advice Service) in Leeds.  She’s juggling her new business with client-friendly hours (evenings and weekends), working and volunteering.”

What advice, contacts or resources would help her?

“Kidi has established relationships, networks and a strong reputation amongst the refugee communities in Leeds, thanks to her work and the pilot arising from her Masters Degree.  Now, with the help of her Directors (including two of her Uni lecturers) she’s working hard to build new links with ethical employers who are addressing work-place diversity and who have skills gaps and staff shortages.

Getting employment, voluntary and apprenticeship roles for professional and low-skilled refugees with a right to work a broad range of skills, experiences and potential is the goal: she’d appreciate help in getting to the head and the heart of local employer decision-makers so her new agency can thrive for the benefit of refugees.”

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 the North!