Mohammed Sharif

Community Health Development Worker, Mohammed Sharif (known as Sharif), has transformed his own career and made an important contribution to local cardiac care, following dedicated part-time study at Bradford College, culminating in his BA (Hons) Community & Social Care degree in 2007.

Sharif“When I came to this country from Kashmir at the age of 12, I couldn’t speak a word of English. I left school with no formal qualifications and did various jobs including textiles and working in restaurant before joining a family business as a market trader.” After 12 years selling clothes in the market Sharif longed to do something more satisfying so he did some volunteer work with Social Services, working with disadvantaged children with challenging behaviour and studied to improve his English.

In 2001 a family friend told him about a new post of Community Cardiac Rehabilitation Worker, which involved providing language support to heart failure and cardiac rehabilitation patients and their families. “I had to get a dictionary out find what ‘cardiac’ meant. I initially thought this was a joke because like many people I thought you have to be a doctor, nurse or some kind of professional to work for the NHS. But I applied because there is a high incidence of Coronary Heart Disease in this country, particular in the South Asian communities, and I had the desire to make a difference.”

At first Sharif felt inadequate working with nurses and other professionals but he persevered. With support and encouragement from Bradford & Airedale Teaching Primary Care Trust and his manager, he attended many courses, for instance education on basic dietary advice for CHD prevention. After this training and gaining formal qualifications at College, Sharif’s role became less dependent on nurses’ supervision and began to become a role in its own right. He started a Walking for Health group and after listening to needs of current users he set up Project Beat, a buddy scheme, where ex-heart patients were given training to support new heart patients. The scheme was funded by the PCT and won the West Yorkshire Modernisation Award.

“In 2001 I did my GCSE in English and Diploma in Interpreting which was sponsored by the PCT. The following year I enrolled for a foundation degree in Health and Social Care part time which took me 3 years. On the first day of the course, I was keyed up. I was nervous because I was overawed by the thought of a degree course, and I did not know what was expected of me but at the same time I was very excited. I enrolled again for the BA (Hons) Community & Social Care and I graduated in 2007. The graduation was a day I will always remember because I was fortunate enough to have my father and my grandson there.”

Sharif has recently changed his role to Community Health Development Worker which basically involves reducing health inequality, identifying the community’s concerns and gaps and helping people to make decisions about their communities and aking responsibility for tackling local problems. Sharif is now working on primary prevention of CHD, going into community and religious centres to raise awareness.

Photograph by Shelagh Ward