Finalist category: Community Impact Award 2017

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Community Impact Award, Winner, 2017

Online and in-person translation service using refugee talents

Chatterbox is an online and in-person language tutoring service, delivered and developed by refugees. It brings together refugee talent with people and organisations who need people with excellent language skills.

“Around 117,000 people with refugee status are currently living in the UK. On average, they have higher levels of education and training than the rest of the population. However, they are much more likely than average, even compared to other minority groups, to be unemployed, or underemployed in low skilled, unsocial, even exploitative work that hampers their future employability,” said Mursal Hedayat from Chatterbox.

“I arrived in the UK as a refugee from Afghanistan with my mother Patuni, a civil engineer with over a decade in practice who spoke four languages, including English, fluently. Having sought refuge in one of the world’s most developed economies, she was chronically under-employed in work that didn’t allow her to use her skills to benefit herself, her family, or society,” said Mursal Hedayat, founder of Chatterbox.

Her qualifications had become meaningless, she couldn’t afford to re-qualify, and her life became meaningless. She became trapped in low-paid, low-skilled work. Her story is anything but unique with hundreds of talented refugees facing a bleak future as their confidence and aspirations fade.

Mursal Hedayat founder of Chatterbox

The technology they use isn’t revolutionary, but it’s an innovative idea that shows how technology can be used for social good. They recruit, train, and support talented people, who have become refugees, giving them stimulating work as language tutors, and creating a pathway into even better employment opportunities.

Chatterbox has grown rapidly since starting up in August 2016. They have secured investment for their project and have taken on their first big contract with SOAS University of London. So far, they have supported more than 30 refugees with aspirations to rebuild their professional lives in the UK.

Together with over 100 language students in universities and elsewhere, they have generating over 500 hours of employment and engaging conversations, numerous friendships, and an abundance of cross-cultural learning.

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