Nishan Dzhingozyan works with communities struggling to overcome language and cultural barriers
Enfield is a diverse borough with people from many different countries and cultures, speaking many different languages – and reaching out to them has never been more important.
To tackle the global pandemic, language and cultural barriers must be overcome, while there is also the small matter of a looming deadline for EU citizens to apply for their UK ‘settled status’.
One Enfield resident, a community outreach worker originally from Bulgaria, has made it his mission to help residents of similar backgrounds struggling to navigate the various challenges they now face.
Nishan Dzhingozyan arrived in the UK in 2005 to study at Kingston University, and later settled in Enfield. As a community outreach worker for Brent Council, Nishan realised there was a need to bring Eastern European communities together. He set up the Eastern European Forum, which includes a network of 50 organisations, from local authorities to embassies.
Nishan organised the Festival of East European Heritage and Culture at Forty Hall in 2019 and, since February last year, has been working with Edmonton Community Partnership on a scheme encouraging people from the Bulgarian Roma community to apply for settled status.
“We discovered there were many Bulgarians in Edmonton with a Roma background,” explained Nishan. “We think there is at least 15,000 of them and they are probably the largest group of Bulgarian Roma in the UK.
“They have been identified as ‘hard to reach’ and they are experiencing specific problems. They need to apply for settled status but they are struggling because you need internet access. Our concern is that if they can’t do it they will become illegal immigrants in June.”
Nishan has been calling Roma families from school offices, the only way to reliably reach them. As well as talking about their settled status and about Covid-19 vaccinations, he checks whether they have enough food, if they have laptops, and whether they are in need of financial support.
“We will deliver up to 40 information sessions on different subjects, including how to get vaccinated,” Nishan says.
“In Enfield 16,000 people are not registered with a GP and we believe a lot of these people belong to the Bulgarian Roma community.”
Nishan has also set up his own community group, The Bulgarian Centre for Social Integration and Culture, and sits on a new Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Project Board set up by Enfield Council. He added: “When I first came to the UK my English was very basic, so I understand the challenges these communities face”
Nishan was nominated as an ‘Enfield Community Hero’ by Hannah Bawden, his colleague at Edmonton Community Partnership, who said: “Nishan is a passionate activist, cares very deeply, and has formed positive relationships with everyone he’s worked with.”
This article is the third in our ‘Enfield Community Heroes’ series, sponsored by Edmonton Green Shopping Centre. Dispatch readers are welcome to nominate their own local hero – someone who has gone above and beyond to help support the local community. Simply email your nomination to [email protected].