About usEvery face has a story: Meet Ubah our self-confident power woman
The morning was a bit cool, but the sunbeams made their way between the buildings and the streets of Zurich's Wipkinger neighborhood. Ubah stood in front of the Nordbrücke café, where we had arranged our meeting. She was ready for the interview and wore her Valeriana bag just as casually as her hijab. Her purple lipstick glimmered in contrast with her black and yellow flower dress. She smiled mischievously.
We took a seat in the café which is usually not busy in the morning and where every few minutes you hear the coffee machine buzzing in the background. Ubah ordered an orange juice because Swiss coffee isn’t tasty in her opinion. She radiates a certain self-confidence, an inner calm. You get the feeling that she could find her way around independently. She denies smiling as we ask her about it. That was entirely different when she first came to Switzerland, she explains.
Ubah’s start in Switzerland
… back then, when Ubah arrived in Switzerland, she didn’t know anybody. She didn’t know where to buy the groceries, how to use the public transport and the German language. Her husband worked a lot and wasn’t able to help her. She stayed at home with her two-year-old daughter and got desperate when she ran out of milk powder and couldn’t reach her husband. She knew it was time to step out of this isolation and adjust to her new environment. Ubahs husband was also one of the reasons she moved to Switzerland. He had already been accepted as a refugee a few years back in Zurich. When he got a permanent job, his family from Ethiopia was permitted to join him.
This was the beginning of a whole new chapter in Ubah’s life. Such a transport system like in Switzerland made of trains, buses and trams was completely foreign to Ubah and about Google Maps she had never heard anything before. Also, the climate was different, and she had to get used to the cold. Despite all the challenges, she was determined to find herself a job and looked in her husband's surroundings. She was quickly referred to an office cleaning job, which she gratefully accepted. However, this cleaning job was paid at minimum wage.
How Ubah found her way to Valeriana
It so happened that Ubah got a call from an acquaintance who referred her to Valeriana. Only then her life began to change, she said. At Valeriana she got an offer for a trial cleaning and proved herself to be efficient and accurate. Not only that, but Ubah learned how to find the addresses of different clients and was impressed by Google Maps. Quickly, the number of her jobs increased, and she roamed around Zurich City as if she had always lived here.
Her eyes sparkle as she tells about her new acquired skills. She says she uses Google daily now and no longer needs to ask her husband. He is pleasantly surprised at how independent Ubah has become and is glad that she now has a side income that benefits the whole family.
Clean spell for inside and outside thanks to the Valeriana Community
We would like to know how else her life has changed through Valeriana. She immediately starts listing things, such as time management - this works very differently in her home country, she laughs cheerfully - having a routine in everyday life, having much more contact with the local population now. She says that working at Valeriana has "opened her eyes”. After all, you don't just go to the customers for the cleaning, but also to maintain relationships. In other words "cleaning magic" for the inside and the outside.
And what else? She also learnt to say “No”. She received clear guidelines from Valeriana, that help her to respond to special requests from customers. Sometimes the customer demand for more than is possible at Valeriana and the employees have to learn to set limits appropriately
Ubah enjoys spending time with other Valeriana women during the community activities. She says that new friendships have already formed. The more often Valeriana gets its employees together, the more time they can spend together and also take time out from their daily routine.
Ubah feels joy when it rains
At the end, we ask her the usual question about what she likes about Switzerland and what she misses about her home country. Ubah says she likes the local school system because they teach children so many different subjects at such an early age. That's different in Ethiopia, she says. And even though she hasn't quite gotten used to the climate here yet, she feels joy every time it rains. Why then Ubah!, we ask, a bit bewildered. She explains that she doesn't perceive it as rain, but as a pleasant pattering of water splashes, nice and quiet. Because where she comes from, you are soaking wet when it rains.
In Ethiopia, she obviously misses her family and friends who stayed there. But Ubah has the necessary residence permit, which allows her to return to Ethiopia and come back to Switzerland again. However, since she is expecting her third child, she won't be able to travel this year.
We thank you very much for the interview, dear Ubah.