The UMMA Trust – Empowering Former Refugee and Migrant Women and Families

The UMMA Trust was established in 2003 to provide social and community services for former refugee and migrant communities with a specific focus on the wellbeing of Muslim women, children and families who are socially and economically disadvantaged. It takes a strength-based approach to supporting families and works in a holistic manner.

In 2015, The UMMA Trust sought and received support from the J R McKenzie Trust for its ongoing development and leadership programme aimed at empowering former refugee and migrant Muslim women. It does this by providing a range of holistic social services to support their independence, wellbeing and integration into Aotearoa New Zealand’s society.

The overall programme incorporates many elements, such as a parenting programme which has supported women to achieve Certificates in Incredible Years Parenting, gain the confidence to read English stories with their children to support their school learning, and use technology such as the SKIP Tips parenting app.

Another component of the programme is aimed at helping women and families create a happy family life in New Zealand. Workshops are offered which provide information and advice on how to strive for violence-free homes. Women were also supported to make a submission to the Ministry of Justice on family violence and how to tackle this issue.

An employment initiative develops pathways for women whereby they volunteer with The UMMA Trust, progressing onto training and academic qualifications. Once the qualification is gained, they can access work experience at The Trust or other mainstream providers, which ultimately leads to employment. The programme also involves enterprise development, helping the women gain financial management, marketing skills and practical business experience.

Another element is a ‘Women-Only Health and Fitness Programme’ which incorporates swimming, gym and Zumba classes. Participants have numbered in their thousands and many have also taken part in Healthy Living, Healthy Eating programmes too.

Ever mindful of cultural sensitivity, The UMMA Trust also seeks to train members of the community in social service provision to ensure that delivery is respectful and appropriate. Supporting former refugee women to become social and community workers means creating an environment where culturally sensitive service provision is the norm. There is currently a lack of skilled and experienced workers of this type throughout Aotearoa and filling this gap is important mahi. There was great pride in the team when one of the young women became the first Somali to be a fully registered social worker.

Across the board, the Trust aims to have a positive effect across a wide spectrum of areas and there have been some great results so far.

“Two years ago, our research identified only two women from a survey of 60, who had full driving licences. This year, fifty-three former refugee women moved from Learner Licences to the Restricted Licence programme at Puketepapa Community Driving School,” says Anne Lee, Manager of The UMMA Trust.

One former refugee features in this TVNZ news item:

Demonstrating the ripple effect of The UMMA Trust approach, in 2018, eight women leaders received training and led working groups within their own Ethiopian, Somali and Afghan communities.

“Each group has six mothers with many children. For example, 18 Somali women participants are mothers to 80 children between them. All mothers worked together to balance family budgets and create joint saving schemes. So rather than struggling financially from week to week, they have savings to give their children a wonderful summer holiday and great start to the 2019 school year,” says Anne.

The good work of The UMMA Trust hasn’t gone unnoticed. Anne was recently delighted to see Youth Programme Co-ordinator, Mohamud Mohamed, named as a ‘Local Hero’ at the 2018 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards. This is the first time a Somali man has received this prestigious award.

The UMMA Trust has a straightforward kaupapa: ‘support one to empower many’. There can be no doubt that this is having a far-reaching, intergenerational impact, one that will continue to flow positively throughout the communities The UMMA Trust serves.

Check out The Umma Trust’s website, or visit their Facebook page.