Volunteer awards for helping refugees and asylum seekers - Refugee Council
January 25, 2007

Volunteer awards for helping refugees and asylum seekers

The Refugee Council celebrated the work of our volunteers yesterday at this year’s Annual General Meeting with the awarding, for the first time, of the Marsh Refugee Volunteer Awards.

The awards, which are sponsored by The Marsh Christian Trust, provide funding for “A project planned and delivered by volunteers, which allows the Refugee Council to provide new or better services for refugees and asylum seekers in your local area”.

Throughout the Refugee Council, volunteers are a constant source of ideas for new ideas to help clients, and the Marsh Refugee Volunteer Awards allows some of these ideas to become a reality, by providing £450 project funding for each region which is awarded to a regional winner. The regional winners were announced in December at presentation evenings, where the work of all Refugee Council volunteers was recognised and celebrated.

The national winner this year was Hannah Hawthorn for her SHARE (Sheffield Homework and Arts Resettlement Experience) project. The SHARE project, which had won the Torkshire and Humberside regional award, is a weekly after school club for children on the Gateway Protection Programme providing emotional support, help with homework and studies, arts or life skills sessions, a healthy meal and social activities.

Brian Marsh, Chair of the Marsh Christian Trust, chose the national winner, and presented Hannah with a cheque for an additional £200 to enhance the project.

Volunteers had been asked to think up and nominate projects, and the nominations were judged by an independent panel of Refugee Council staff and trustees, including representatives who have been clients and volunteers. Twenty-two different projects were proposed and 4 regional winners selected.

Hannah Hawthorn has volunteered with the Gateway Protection Programme since October 2005, providing tutoring and learning support to a family of four Burmese refugee children. Hannah has previously worked in after school programmes in Paris and currently she is studying a social work MA in Sheffield University and works part time as support worker for St Anne’s (a Homeless charity).

Anna Reisenberger, Acting Chief Executive of teh Refugee Council said “We are delighted that the Marsh Christian Trust has decided to fund these awards, which help us to formally recognise the incredible initiative and imagination of our volunteers throughout the country. Our volunteers are a constant source of ideas and inspiration, and we welcome the opportunity these awards give us to provide funding for extra projects designed and run by volunteers.”

Other regional winners

East of England: Cooking for and with Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Nominated by Jan Savage
Jan has been a volunteer in the Ipswich Office since 2001 working as an English teacher, assisting with the women’s group, accompanying vulnerable female clients to appointments, befriending clients and assisting on reception and the Telephone Helpline.

Jan’s project will encourage clients to learn basic cookery skills with an emphasis on how to eat nutritious food while surviving on a very low income. Up to 10 clients a week will attend group cookery sessions in a community kitchen and share the food they have cooked.

London: The Bookworm Project

Nominated by Prakash Pachooa, Annie Bruzzone and Kenzo Fry
Prakash, Kenzo and Annie are all volunteers at the Tuesday evening drop-in social evening for separated children where they support and organise activities for the 100 young people who attend each week.

The project aims to improve Tuesday evening clients’ level of English and general knowledge through organising a book exchange, word learning and scrabble competitions. The project will build on an existing interest in learning and using English and playing board games.

West Midlands Picturing Birmingham

Nominated by Sarah Hislam
Sarah has been volunteering with the Refugee Council since January 2006. Sarah was a key player in setting up our Orientation Project for newly arrived asylum seekers, ensuring that we assisted as many people as possible to learn about living in Birmingham. Sarah is currently studying for a PhD at the University of Birmingham.

Sarah’s project will work with local refugees and asylum seekers to produce artwork (painting, photography, mixed media) reflecting their vision and perception of Birmingham. The artwork will be produced at weekly sessions and will be exhibited at the Central Library Gallery.