Moradi now has a job as a warehouse operator at C&C. Image: Rory Lindsay
In association with C&C Group
Mokhammed Moradi’s first thought was his family when he heard the sounds of gunfire and tanks rumbling through his home city Kyiv, as Russia launched its attack on Ukraine. He feared for his young children and pregnant wife, and he knew they had to flee.
“It was scary,” he remembers. “When I left my home, the tanks were shelling and the earth was shaking. I left because I wanted to save my family and my children.
“They were small and they were scared. They used to ask me: ‘Daddy, will we come back?’ They used to say: ‘My toys are there.’ We did not bring everything. We brought a few clothes but nothing else. All my children’s toys were left there.”
Moradi, 42, had been a salesman in a bazaar in Kyiv before the war broke out. But on 24 February 2022 everything changed, overnight, as it did for so many in Ukraine.
With his family, Moradi initially fled to Germany, where they applied online for the Ukraine Family Scheme visa in the UK. “We know a little bit of English,” he says. “That’s why we came here. It was my dream country when I was a child.” But he was the last in his family to receive permission to come, sending his wife and children ahead of him in May last year. “It was the first time for them as well as me,” he says, remembering separating from them. “But I knew they were going to the UK, a good country.”
After a couple of weeks apart, he was able to join his family in Hounslow, West London. More than a year on, the family are still living in the same temporary accommodation. Desperate to find work, Moradi used his time to improve his English and pass his driving theory test – it was the longest time he’d ever been out of work. “It was not good for me because I’ve worked my whole life,” he says. More than eight million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Europe but only one in three have found work.
On universal credit and attending a job fair for Ukrainian refugees at Hounslow Job Centre, Moradi met Shak Dean from Big Issue Recruit, and has since changed his life. “Mr Shak introduced himself a little bit and asked about me,” Moradi says, “and he said: ‘I will help you. Don’t worry.’ He gave me a chance to get employed more quickly.”
Just over 12 months after leaving Kyiv and fleeing to the UK, Moradi has now embarked on a new career as a warehouse operative at leading drinks manufacturer and distributor C&C, thanks to its three-year partnership with Big Issue. A key priority for C&C was to build on its legacy of existing outreach initiatives which have empowered people from marginalised communities into work. Collaborating with Big Issue Recruit, a specialist recruitment service from Big Issue Group dedicated to supporting people who face barriers to joining the workforce, has been an early partnership highlight.
Dean arranged an assessment with Moradi to learn more about him before they prepared him to enter the UK workforce.
“He had the right attitude to go into work and to move forward,” Dean says. “We work with lots of different people, but it’s about having that drive and ambition to want to work. Moradi wanted to get a job. He wanted to look after his family.”
Dean has experience of struggling to get into employment himself. “I spent a while not working, being quite unwell,” he says. “That led to me actually becoming street homeless for a little while. Doing this work allows me to kind of go back to that time and say: ‘OK, when I was in that position, what did I need?’
“I didn’t need someone to sit in front of me and put me through qualifications or modules. I just needed someone to talk to and understand what’s going on for me. That’s what I try to do – to really explore what’s going on for people.”
For Moradi, it was about knowing the culture and norms when applying for jobs in the UK.
“He just didn’t understand the system here,” says Dean. “He didn’t understand how you make applications or things like the sign-up process. He’d never had to apply for a job for the last 17 years. He was totally out of the system. But he had this desire to work.
“For me, it’s about bridging that gap. And not just bridging it, but actually giving them the tools to be able to do things for themselves in the future.”
When Moradi was ready, Dean shared his profile with the team at C&C, who then worked in partnership to ensure Moradi was set up for success ahead of the recruitment process.
“[Shak] helped me with my interview with what to do and what to say,” Moradi explains. “He told me to follow the history and know a little about the company, and he told me questions to prepare myself for before the interview.”
Doug Haggart, a key member of C&C’s HR team working alongside Dean, has found the whole process – the first of its kind for C&C – really exciting. “It’s one of the things we’ve done that makes me smile, giving people a well-earned step up the career ladder,” he reflects, following the successful placement of five other people in roles across C&C’s London and Glasgow sites.
After an interview, Moradi secured his job in the London warehouse. He wants to train as a forklift operator and eventually a truck driver. For Richard Hayhoe, C&C’s director of corporate affairs and communications, it’s just the kind of story the partnership was created for.
“When we launched our partnership with the Big Issue last year, we made a commitment to make a meaningful difference,” Hayhoe says. “To have placed an initial six people into employment at C&C through the Big Issue Recruit programme is so rewarding.
“I’d like to thank the team at the Big Issue for making the process straightforward and look forward to placing many more candidates at C&C in the future.”
Dean feels there is real value in employing people like Moradi and others from marginalised groups. “These are people who desperately want to work,” he says. “They’ve got a good work ethic. They’ve got experience, but they need a chance. So it’s about more employers opening up and following C&C’s lead.”
Moradi adds: “I was very happy when I got the job. I said to Mr Shak: ‘Thank you for your help. I’m very happy. You helped me and it worked.’”
Dean was thrilled too. “It was amazing,” he says. “I’ve been buzzing about it since he got the job. It’s a reminder for me about where I’ve come from as well. And it’s so easy, like with Mokhammed’s story, you’re living your life and something happens and your life gets turned upside down. But it’s about having someone who takes the time and the effort to guide you, rather than ticking boxes.”
Getting this job is Moradi’s first step towards independence and carving out a life here. War rages on in Ukraine and, with all his family and friends having left their country behind them, his old life is unrecognisable. Now he just wants his family to be safe and happy.
“I want them to have a good life, a peaceful life and a joyful life,” he says. With a solid and steady job, he has the foundation he needs to build this happy future.
“There’s always hope,” Dean adds. “There are always different avenues that you can explore. “I think it’s important to know that as life changes and maybe as you come across difficulties, there are always ways of overcoming them.”
Buy a Big Issue Winter Support Kit for £34.99, you’ll receive four copies of the magazine and vendors could receive immediate tools for survival plus access to vital training and employment pathways to escape poverty for good.