Battle for a better life brings Gambian to Sighthill fire station

Joseph Mendy.
Joseph Mendy.
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A SUPER-fit Gambian dad travelled 4000 miles to start a new life as a firefighter in the city’s Sighthill fire station.

Joseph Mendy, 41, left his job as a fitness instructor in his native Gambia to kick-start a better life for his wife and three children in Scotland.

The proud firefighter worked day and night determined to study every aspect of the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service in the hope he’d be accepted onto the training 
programme.

And he said the help and assistance from serving personnel supported him through the tough recruitment process – to finally pull on the uniform with pride.

Joseph, who is based at Sighthill fire station said all the hard work paid off as he has now landed his dream job.

The dad-of-three said: “I wasn’t sure what to expect in the interview and I found it quite challenging.

“It was quite daunting being from another country and stepping straight into a whole different culture.

“But I knew a few people in the service who gave me advice and I studied hard to learn what the fire service is all about – because it isn’t just about fires.

“We attend at a whole range of different types of emergency and we also carry out a lot of prevention work to help people stay safe, particularly the vulnerable and the elderly.”

Joseph added: “It’s the perfect job for me.”

The firefighter left his homeland in 2005 with wife Tracey and sons Peter, Joshua and Adam and became a crew member four years later after holding down several different jobs.

He said: “After I moved to Scotland I had to wait for citizenship before I could apply to the service so I took any job I could to support my wife and three boys.

“I did some security guard work and then I got a job in a local pie factory.

“I’m all about fitness as I was a fitness instructor before I moved here.

“The fire service in Gambia wasn’t a career path for me but the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service was.

“I look forward to coming in to work and my watch are a great bunch who look out for one another.”

Despite his busy role, Joseph enjoys a good work-life 
balance.

Joseph and his family live in Moffat, Dumfriesshire but he doesn’t mind the commute as his 14-year-old son plays football in the city.

And his shift pattern also allows him to spend quality time with his wife and sons.

He said: “Working the shift system works great for us. We can spend quality time together and the holidays allow us 
to be flexible for school breaks.”

Joseph said despite the challenges to get where he is, a 
career as a firefighter is rewarding and varied.

He said: “I would definitely recommend a career as a 
firefighter.

“Every day is different and you get to help people.

“There are so many learning opportunities in the service, from water rescue to rope 
rescue.

“We have the chance to train in all areas of the fire service – and not every job can say that.”

newsen@edinburghnews.com