After she was made redundant, Nobuhle Nokuthla Ncube tells Darragh Heavey how being prepared to retrain in a new career gave her the purpose she needed
The tougher economic landscape of recent years has found many sitting at home, feeling isolated and redundant following a change of circumstance, with some even envying those who still have a home in which to sit.
But for others, the situation presents a challenge that must be confronted head-on.
After doing her own fair share of ruminating for the best part of a year, Zimbabwean national Nobuhle Nokuthla Ncube has very definite ideas about what course of action to take.
”Act first and talk later” is Nobuhle’s mantra, which she explains as follows: if immediate action is taken to address such difficulties, then ‘talk’, and the stress it might encourage, won’t be required.
Not only has Nobuhle had to face the kind of midlife stumbling blocks that many are encountering today, but she has done so while navigating the extra pressures that all migrants face.
However, she has risen to such challenges for the past 17 years, since moving to Ireland on the encouragement of an uncle who was here “working high up in the medical profession”.
“If you can’t find work, then volunteer,” she says, explaining how that was the path she herself took, pitching in with Irish Aid where she befriended fellow immigrant Salome Mbugua. Identifying the needs of fellow migrants in Ireland, from Africa and elsewhere, together they founded the migrant women’s network AkiDwA, which is active as ever today.
Nobuhile worked with AkiDwA till 2012, when her role was made redundant as the recession of years previous “finally took its toll”. But she did not react with despair.
She advises: “Be prepared to retrain if necessary… If there’s demand in a particular occupation, then people, especially migrants, need to at least give available opportunities a go.”
In Nobuhle’s case, that meant a new career in healthcare: she is currently in her second year of a four-year nursing degree while working part-time as a care assistant, a job that complements her studies.
Nobuhle praises Ireland’s general access to training and education, describing the country as “a land of opportunity” even while grants of previous years are no longer available, and registration fees are on the rise.
Such financial pressures are only compounded by the current national housing crisis. Nobuhle recommends that newcomers “find accommodation with a family after first arriving here, especially if they’re the product, as I am, of more community orientated places.” While friendly on a personal level, she feels the Irish are “communally standoffish, as they prefer to respect each other’s privacy when at home.”
She counts the support of Ireland’s migrant communities as a blessing, especially when it came to an encounter with unsavoury types close to where she once lived. Nobuhle insists that migrants “have a duty to not just their host country but also to each other” that can be expressed through acts of generosity such as volunteering – which, as it happens, can also help counter those feelings of isolation.
“It’s never too late to change track,” maintains Nobuhle “but you do need the self-confidence and belief”. Not to mention the “focus and patience” required to adapt to what is a step-by-step process, potentially over years, not weeks or months. Nobuhle is a living testament to the worth of taking such action.