A&O helps brighten futures for women living in hostels

Allen & Overy’s (A&O) pro bono initiatives have resulted in the magic circle firm providing invaluable support to Tower Hamlets-based self-help organisation Mosaada.

“Although many people may have not heard much about the organisation, it has caught the imagination of our staff,”
says Linda Okeke, A&O’s pro bono and community support officer.

Mosaada (which means ‘help’) is a small organisation providing emotional and practical support to women who are living in hostels or temporary accommodation due to them being asylum seekers, refugees, victims of domestic violence or because they suffer from mental health problems.

The organisation was founded by Huda Al Amin, who found herself living in a hostel after fleeing her home nation of Sudan in 1994. After living in Egypt for five years, she moved to the UK, and then six months later she launched Mosaada.

A&O has been working with Mosaada for more than two years. The firm was put into contact with the organisation by the East London Business Alliance. Since then 50 volunteers have come on board and work with Mosaada in a number of different ways.

A team of five volunteers handles legal issues both for Mosaada and for the women the organisation is trying to help. This ranges from advising a woman on filing for a divorce to handling an employee-related matter for Mosaada.

A&O also gets involved in Mosaada’s marketing and publicity efforts. Al Amin said this type of contribution is just as important as any other. “Before I met A&O, we didn’t even have headed notepaper,” she said.

Meanwhile, another group of volunteers helps to run both simple and advanced English classes, which are run on a weekly basis. A&O staff also get involved in recruitment issues by helping the women to prepare CVs or to complete application forms and by teaching interview techniques.

A&O volunteers also provide emotional support to the women and organise relaxation classes. More recently, the firm launched a mentoring scheme to enable volunteers to work on a one-to-one basis with individual women.

Okeke said the volunteers also learn a great deal as a result of working with Mosaada, especially because a lot of people employed by A&O have never had contact with refugees or even followers of the Islamic faith.

Al Amin said Mosaada has benefited hugely from the contribution made by A&O staff. She added that, based on her calculations, if the amount of time the volunteers have spent working with Mosaada were converted into cash, it would be equivalent to £53,500.

A&O litigation partner Mona Vaswan oversees the firm’s work with Mosaada.