ONE of the first Afghan interpreters to leave the country with British Armed Forces has opened a shop in Plymouth City Centre – the place where he’s been made so welcome since 2014.
Aminullah (Amin) Shinwari, 34, worked on the front line in Afghanistan with our Forces and was withdrawn with them in 2014, along with his immediate family for their own safety. And he recently welcomed shoppers to the opening of his new Better Bargain store in New George’s St.
Amin’s first job after relocating to South Devon was as a waiter in an Indian restaurant, but he then found his niche repairing mobile phones in a specialist shop, utilising the skills he had developed before becoming an interpreter.
“I worked there for five years and got a lot of customer service experience. I was happy there but there were a lot of challenges, because, at that time, my wife didn’t speak English, and there were many appointments – going to English classes, seeing the doctor, and many things – we had to attend. It was quite difficult to keep asking for time off.
“Somebody suggested working as a taxi driver when you can work as you want. That made it easier, but I didn’t enjoy the work.”
Now his wife speaks English – and has British citizenship – she can attend appointments on her own allowing Amin to return to doing what he likes best: customer service.
“My closest friend has a small chain of three shops spread across the country and suggested I open a shop here, in Plymouth. I love to do customer service like this. I enjoy serving the community.
“My plan was just to repair phones, but I was advised to extend it to a ‘bargain’ shop, and we now have 17,000 items here. So, I’m repairing phones and selling things. I’m delighted to be able to employ people from the local Plymouth community as well as the Afghan community. It’s good as a customer to see friendly faces.”
Amin paid tribute to both the city of Plymouth – and its people – and the Armed Forces charity Help for Heroes which has guided and supported him since he first came to the country.
“When I first came to Plymouth I knew only of three Afghan men in the city – now there is an Afghan community of 41 families. Plymouth has been very welcoming to us and Help for Heroes – mainly (case worker) Larry (Holmes) – has been supporting us and helping us, every step, all the way.
“I’m a very big supporter of Help for Heroes and I wouldn’t be where I am now without that support and friendship. They showed us the right way all the time. Everything I asked they gave me a positive response.
“The people of Plymouth have been so welcoming to us. My heart is open for Plymouth. I love Plymouth; we’re more than happy; we’re known here, we feel part of Plymouth now, and I’ll never go anywhere else. I have my British citizenship. I want to make them as welcome in the shop as they’ve welcomed me to the city.”
Better Bargain’s new Plymouth store was eight months in the planning, but a lot longer – and almost 4,000 miles – in the making. And its proprietor is going to enjoy every moment.
Help for Heroes champions the Armed Forces community and helps them live well after service. The charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives. It has already supported more than 27,000 people and won’t stop until every veteran gets the support they deserve.
To get support, please visit: helpforheroes.org.uk.