'I can make a difference' - Refugee Council
April 15, 2014

‘I can make a difference’

Dasha came to the UK from Russia when she was a child with her family who were seeking asylum. Now an adult, Dasha had been supporting asylum seeking women access health care through the Refugee Council’s Health Befriending Network. She recently shared her experiences at a European conference on Optimising Childbirth. This is her story.

You meet a person, rocking on the chair, or talking without stopping or looking at the floor as you try and make eye contact. You put a wide pearly smile on your face that says; trust me I am your friend not an enemy.

Building is the key word in a befriending. Whilst my clients were busy building barriers between themselves and the outside world I was constantly building trust. Whilst they were building ways to avoid communicating with anyone, I would be a building friendship.

My technique is persistence. If my client did not pick up the phone I would text, if they did not meet me I would visit them at home. I would pop in, pop up, ring up, text in order to reach them. I would drag them to an event, to a support group, to an open day somewhere; we would visit shops, libraries and museums.

After a bit you get their full story or what you think is the full story. Three months later you realise it was just a tip of the iceberg.

I had young client whom I was supporting. She had no English, was in early pregnancy, extremely sick, vomiting and in need of urgent help. She did not seek help because she thought she had to pay.

She was eventually prescribed heart burn medicine since she could not explain the problem and an interpreter was not offered

I registered the client with a midwife who suggested A&E. At A&E I had to translate and insist on the tests to be carried out since the client has not eaten for days; she looked grey and has lost weight.

I wonder what would have happened to my client if I was not there to support her.

As a stubborn yet ambitious person I always got what I wanted and that is my clients’ trust. And their trust is the most rewarding aspect of the volunteering. It has provided me with confidence in myself because I see now I can make a difference in someone’s life.