Sarah Haid on social enterprise and the women who've inspired her

Sarah discusses her work with the London Met Lab and how London Met's students are giving back to their local communities through her social enterprise, Better Safe Communities.

Date: 08 March 2021

Sarah Haid, Director of Better Safe Communities, works with over 100 London Met students through the London Met Lab’s work-based learning module, Empowering London.

For International Women’s Day, we caught up with her to discuss the inspiration she’s drawn from women throughout her life and career, and the advice she would give to others looking to set up social enterprises.

Can you tell me about a woman who has inspired you throughout your career?

My mother is a huge source of inspiration. When I was in Sheffield, she worked tirelessly to help Somali refugees fleeing the conflict and war in the 1990s. Both our homes in Sheffield were a stop-over for families fleeing for their lives after the military was bombing their own people in Somalia. Thousands of Somalis were put on humanitarian flights to Europe to save their lives, many millions fled to neighbouring African countries and over 500.000 were killed immediately in the country.

Before the arrivals could be processed for sheltered accommodation in the respective cities, many had to stay with Somali families who were willing to give up their bedrooms and lounges to house them for a few days at a time. I remember in the 1990s, our homes becoming like reception centres and mother standing in the kitchen making large portions of food and mobilising the social support needs with no financial support at all, just the willingness of local Somalis to come and help those who had been traumatised, providing them with food and shelter. Many of them were single mothers who lost their husbands to the heavy bombing. Many orphans' parents were killed and were quickly rushed onto UN flights to Europe.

My mother became known to the local council as the link between the new arrivals and the help that was required for sheltered accommodations. I saw her spending hours counselling traumatised people where 24 hours ago they were in a war zone and 24 hours later, they are in safety but they had seen things we only see in action films. She was inspirational because gave all of herself, her time to crying women who were grieving for their loved ones, the life they had and the brutal rapes they endured. She was their voice and interpreter during the difficult times in their lives and today as she lives in Somalia, in peace and stability. She is famous for her humanitarian efforts by building centres of hope and peace for families returning back home. It was amazing to see first-hand compassion and care all done without no support. From those early days, I became overwhelmed with the suffering of others and as I went through my career and study, I always gave up time to social justice issues.

What’s your experience of working with London Met students been like?

My experience of working with London Met has been amazing, there is something unique and special about it. Every time I work with the personnel, they seem to have the right way of responding to the needs and voices of the community settings, they are instilled with the sense of collaboration and desire to make a social change. I always have the sense that this sense of community support and compassion must come from the Vice-Chancellor, who I haven’t met, but, I have heard she is eager to see students gain a better understanding of local social needs and how this can influence the work of London Met. This vision is so admirable and transformational and it will only bring the respect of the local communities who are suffering the most.

What advice would you give women about starting their own social enterprises? What do you wish you'd known before you started?

The best advice I would give to women is to surround yourself with people that truly care about your well-being and success. If a good person gives you criticism, it is because they care and they don’t want you to keep making the same mistakes. Always be humble, kind, considerate and never arrogant and know there is always someone who is more intelligent and wiser and you still have room to improve in this world in which we live. You can learn from bad experiences because you can reflect on how best to respond in another similar situation.

For women to be successful in business, you need to have successful relationships, be honourable, be on time and respectful of people’s beliefs and cultures - we all have something to learn. Every minute and day I run Better Safe Communities is because I love what I do, so whatever you do you MUST LOVE WHAT YOU DO. If you dread what you do you must try your best to make your work something you enjoy.


woman wearing blue hijab sitting at a computer