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Surraya’s Story

Creating opportunities for equity, integration and progression through learning

Surraya Bibi (left), Inclusive Integration Project Co-Ordinator


Surraya has worked at Halifax Opportunities Trust (HOT) for almost 15 years, joining us in 2008 to deliver English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes and support new arrivals to the UK into their new community. She has established a strong provision over the years, creating a service and space that is welcoming, supportive and committed to ensuring people feel equipped and confident to build a life in the UK.   

Now named Inclusive Integration, ESOL and citizenship has always been a strong focus for the Trust and Surraya has supported HOT endlessly, in living up to its purpose of creating a vibrant, multi-cultural and self-sustaining community. Each year, Surraya and her team support around 120 learners to graduate in ESOL – almost 1,800 people in 15 years – a valuable qualification that creates many opportunities for work and life.

Establishing ESOL

Surraya is a qualified ESOL Lecturer and, before joining HOT, she was a College Lecturer who delivered ESOL at various centres across Halifax, including the Hanson Lane Enterprise Centre.  As the Trust’s demand for ESOL grew, there was also a growing need for a dedicated ESOL Manager.

At the time, the Trust was focussed on getting more women to learn ESOL and one of the barriers to this was that many females in the community wanted female only classes, delivered by fellow females. Surraya’s experience and approach was a good fit for HOT as she understood its aims and challenges, as well as those of the people she taught. Through the professional relationship she had built with Abrar, HOT’s training manager at the time, Surraya eventually took a permanent role to support its mission in reaching more women and mothers. Surraya remembers:

“Having met with Abrar Hussain and finding out more about the Trust, I was very impressed with the organisation. Abrar eventually poached me to move from the college and join HOT ( a bold step as I was on a permanent contract with the College and decided to join on a 9 month contract)! I’m still here to tell the story!”

Building Stronger Communities

Historically there has been limited focus in the Calderdale area for English language learning and the importance of integration. When Surraya joined the Trust, Calderdale was experiencing a high influx of newly arrived individuals from across the globe and, with the resulting change in demographic throughout the borough, this inevitably presented a great challenge for the community. Surraya recalls:

“HOT ensured it was in the forefront to provide diverse communities with opportunities to both settle in the host community, but also gain access to English language learning and steps to integrate.”

Since then, the community has built a much stronger relationship with HOT and I am proud of the existence of the organisation that is in the heart of the community. Over the 14 years since I have been with the Trust, we have created opportunities to widen the accessibility of English language learning and offer recognised qualifications.”

A Suffragette march co-ordinated by Surraya in 2018

 Supporting Growth

One of the most prevalent and ongoing needs the Trust continues to address is learning, with wellbeing also a key area. While HOT has increased in size and delivery, with many more opportunities for local people to thrive, the ESOL provision has grown and diversified alongside it. Surraya reflects:

“A great deal has significantly changed for the Trust. From us being a relatively small entity, compared to the size we are today! The introduction of the ESOL Coordinator role has been quite fundamental in widening access to learning. It has helped steer and place correct alignment of ESOL and build partnership working. It is highly pleasing that we now rank amongst the largest ESOL providers in Calderdale!”

A key development for Inclusive Integration is embedding a health remit within the ESOL provision, which sets out to educate learners on medical services and health conditions. This ultimately keeps learners informed so they have better understanding of what to do when addressing a health concern and builds confidence to question and challenge decisions, when facing medical procedures. Surraya and her team have identified some core areas of focus based on public health needs in Calderdale, which have shaped the curriculum.

Key areas of ‘ESOL for Health’ include:

  • ESOL for pregnancy
  • ESOL & Dental Hygiene for children
  • Understanding consanguineous marriages
  • ESOL for Health
  • Cancer research

Surraya comments: “This has been a turning point for widening the provision as it has enabled further collaborative working and helped us to identify key areas of health that require focus. Since then we have delivered ‘ESOL for Health’ as a continuing theme as part of our offer – raising awareness and empowering learners through informed decision making.”

Recognising commitment

It’s clear that Surraya is a committed member of Halifax Opportunities Trust and has played an instrumental role in driving positive change for the communities of Park ward and the wider Calderdale borough. From ESOL classes, to supporting individuals through employment and even establishing their own businesses, Surraya and her team offer a holistic approach that focuses on helping individuals reach their aspirations.

It is not just her commitment to learners that is worthy of recognition, Surraya’s dedication to her role and continuous progression is equally impressive. Since joining HOT Surraya has embraced learning opportunities to enhance her skills and professional development. She has successfully gained Level 5 qualifications in Teaching English Language and Leadership and Management.

In November 2022, Surraya’s work was acknowledged with a prestigious West Yorkshire High Sheriff Certificate for ‘Great and valuable services to the community’. Surraya celebrates:

“I am honoured to have received the High Sheriff award. This of course has only been possible with the excellent opportunities the Trust provides its staff to excel!”


Surraya accepting her certificate

Creating Opportunities

As we celebrate our 21st Anniversary, we are looking back on the many opportunities we have created for individuals, families, businesses and the community. This means something different to everyone, and Surraya’s ongoing drive over the years has meant opportunities have shown in many shapes and forms. To her, ‘creating opportunities’ means:

“HOT genuinely believes in being an organisation that is community focussed and community led…

The Trust’s vision incorporates local community needs and it aspires to be at the forefront of providing vital opportunities for the local people it serves.”

Through the years Surraya has worked at the Trust, she has helped both the Inclusive Integration provision and the Trust as a whole to grow and has gained a deep understanding of the people, families and communities we work with.  

This means that she is able to shape delivery and seek funding based on such needs to ensure Inclusive Integration courses and programmes remain relevant, valuable and resilient – qualities that can be reflected Trust-wide.

To Surraya, Halifax Opportunities Trust is: a caring and committed lead organisation within Calderdale, in the forefront to tailor services for the local communities it is situated in.”

I have no hesitation in saying that HOT is by far the best employer I have worked for in my entire professional career! I really appreciate the opportunities given to us as employees and for the regard and value we have as staff.”

A Brighter Future

Our 21st birthday doesn’t only mean we’re looking back on our impact over the years, it gives us the opportunity to look forward and establish plans for the future. Surraya is positive that the future is bright for the Trust and that her team and peers will continue to ensure that the 1,700 people we reach each day are able to build a better life.

“The future for HOT as I see it is very bright. Our services are increasing on a daily basis and it is so pleasing to see HOT being recognised as a lead community anchor organisation within Calderdale. New planned initiatives will hopefully increase our reach and bring in new funding to support and sustain our activities.”

Learn more about our 21st Birthday celebrations

As well as the contributions our connections are kindly providing to tell our story, we have lots of other things planned. Learn more on our official webpage, via the button below.

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