By Katie McAdam, Sona Circle
After gaining a well-regarded role as an analyst at J.P Morgan, Amr Sabbah seemed to have it all. With a proud family, a secure income and a successful career, Sabbah was satisfied with his life.
Following his first year at the global finance giant, Sabbah’s initial contentment faded as he became frustrated with the office’s toxic culture. Soon Sabbah’s mental health began to suffer as he developed anxiety and experienced frequent panic attacks. Stressed out at work, Sabbah needed a break to re-evaluate his life.
For Sabbah, this desire for connection is a key feature in his life.
Coming from Syria, Sabbah remembers the Damascus of his upbringing with fondness, missing the Mediterranean culture and strong sense of community.
At the age of 19 during the Syrian civil war, Sabbah moved to the UK to study for a BA in Business Management at London Metropolitan University. Moving to London saw a shift from Sabbah’s socially connected life in Damascus. For Sabbah, social isolation made life in the UK almost more difficult than the political instability in Syria.
Determined to improve his situation, Sabbah worked hard to grow and develop his career at J.P Morgan’s Edinburgh office. But when the work was of detriment to his wellbeing, Sabbah needed greater peace in his life.
In order to manage his anxiety, Sabbah turned to meditation.
After seeing the benefits in his own life, Sabbah wanted to help other colleagues to benefit from meditation. Sabbah created a daily lunch-time meditation group to give others a space to recharge. The sessions proved to be popular at the Edinburgh branch and as a result, were implemented at J.P Morgan’s London office.
Though meditation had been a welcome improvement, Sabbah was still unfulfilled and sought a more significant change. Sabbah moved to London with the aim of expanding his mediation groups into a business.
With the support of The Entrepreneurial Refugee Network (TERN), Sabbah established the social enterprise Sangha Gathers. Keen to improve his knowledge of the field, Sabbah enhanced his passion through his studies at the University of East London in his Masters of Positive Psychology.
Initially, Sabbah was drawn to following the popular model of the mindfulness app and expanding Sangha Gathers on a mobile platform. With a desire to be unique, Sabbah instead focused his attentions on creating the Our Sangha Facebook group, as a low-cost alternative to bringing people together through meditation. The Facebook group forms an important part of Sabbah’s wider social enterprise at Sangha Gathers.
Sabbah’s distinctive approach is eager to focus on the advantages of group meditation which is often regarded as a solitary activity.
Sangha Gathers offers both paid-for and free support. From Sabbah’s previous business experience, he knew there was a demand for corporate wellbeing programmes. Sangha Gathers provides group mediation and positive psychology programmes to businesses across the country. Most recently it has partnered with the University of Cambridge to offer 28 sessions over two weeks to university staff. Sabbah’s success at J.P Morgan has been emulated through Sangha Gathers, with his clients fostering the resilience and mindfulness to better cope within the workplace.
On the more charitable side of Sangha Gathers, Sabbah’s personal connection has motivated him to train refugees and those from disadvantaged backgrounds through virtual positive psychology and meditation groups, in partnership with the University of East London.
This refugee-led programme equips individuals with the ability to apply the methods learned to solve the problems they have identified in the sessions. Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown maintaining good mental health has been particularly important. To respond to the need, free meditation courses have been given to the Sangha community.
Sabbah continues to develop his passion through Sangha Gatherers as it continues to expand. Sabbah advises those who want to lead a similar path, that it is vital to test your ideas as soon as possible in order to gather the feedback to adapt your activities.
He also believes that though it may take time for your passion to come into reality, you should start small and just go for it.
Mental health and entrepreneurship are two critical areas of refugee integration which have been covered by Sona Circle Recruitment blogs. This is why we partner with many diverse partner organisations (including Sangha Gathers) which all have one thing in common, a shared commitment to supporting the skilled refugee workforce.
At Sona Circle Recruitment, we partner with companies to provide paid internships and apprenticeships to refugees, helping to combat an elitist internship culture and the recruitment practices that currently exist. If you know of a company that would be interested in hiring from the dependable refugee workforce, they can get in touch with us here.
By wearing a #EqualTee you are standing in solidarity with any group in society that has been unfairly treated or discriminated against. This goes further than refugees and asylum seekers, it includes the Black Lives Matter movement, LGBTQ+ rights, gender equality and BAME rights.