Volunteers’ Week is an opportunity for us to recognise the amazing contribution that volunteers make all year round. At Refugee Council, volunteers contribute to every part of our operation, working directly with refugees and people seeking asylum, as well as helping things run smoothly behind the scenes.
2020 so far has been challenging for everyone, and that includes our volunteers. Some have had to step back from the volunteer roles they treasure dearly, others have had to adapt to new circumstances, transitioning to online and phone roles. We have also brought on many new volunteers to help with our new and adapted services during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Our volunteers are fantastic and bring such a wealth of kindness, experience and generosity to our work.
Vera’s volunteer story
Having recently retired as a social worker, I was interested in volunteering for a charity where my own career experience might be helpful. I was fortunate to hear Sarah, a representative of the Refugee Council, speak eloquently about the work of the organisation in Barnsley and her hope to establish a Women’s Group.
So back on November 2017, I became the first volunteer with the Women’s Group and from small and humble beginnings I have had the pleasure of watching the venture develop and thrive. We now regularly have between ten and 20 women attend each week – from a wide variety of backgrounds and nationalities and often accompanied by their children. Above all, we provide a safe place, where women can relax and talk with friends. We assist with the provision of women and children’s clothes, allow opportunities for creative activities and a health visitor is available for advice about children’s health and well-being.
We also arrange for occasional outings and trips for our families. I have always enjoyed these visits to the cinema and local places of interest, as it is so evident how much the families appreciate the new experiences and chances to visit new places.
Our core group is ever changing as refugees become established, are granted leave to remain and find work or training/educational courses or even move to different areas of the country. There are many talented women who will remain in my memory – and who have demonstrated a grace of spirit that is humbling – often in the face of many difficulties and setbacks. The drive to make their lives anew for their families is very notable, as is their resilience and camaraderie together. Working with refugees has been predominantly a pleasure, is occasionally frustrating (at not being able to help more) but overall feels worthwhile and valuable. Learning about new cultures, attitudes and things shared in common with our refugees has been a blessing in my life.