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Newsletter Guest Editor Gemma interviews Trainee Programme Officers Mona and Maryam

By September 5, 2023September 13th, 2023Blog post

Refugee Action is on a journey to remove barriers to power for people with lived experience. Earlier this year, as part of this commitment our Explore, Adapt, Renew programme, was one of Refugee Action’s projects who created roles specifically for people who had lived experience of the asylum system. 

Guest Editor of our Autumn Newsletter, Gemma, had the opportunity to talk to new Trainee Programme Officers, about their new roles, the recruitment experience and the importance of creating accessible roles for those who have lived through the asylum system.  

Could you tell me about what drew you to Refugee Action? 

Maryam: I was part of an Expert by Experience network at Refugee Action, and I learnt more about how they helped others like me. So, when I got my status and work permit, I decided that I wanted to work for Refugee Action. I wanted to change the asylum system I experienced. 

Mona: I was about to finish my studies, and at the time I was on an employment coaching programme. They told me about the trainee opportunity at Refugee Action. I attended an information session about the trainee roles. It brought the job description to life. It made everything clear to me, and I decided to apply. 

In what way do you feel Refugee Action is creating space for those with lived experience in the charity sector? 

Maryam: Mona and I, both have lived experience and the training that Refugee Action offered really helped us to start working in the UK. It’s really hard to get into jobs in the UK when you don’t know anything about the working environment. So, trainee roles like ours really help. Refugee Action is creating opportunities to learn and take on roles in the charity sector. 

They also create space with their Experts by Experience network. Those of us with lived experience, know we can make the policies better because of our experience. You’re asking me where the problems are, I can clearly tell you what I experienced and where advocacy is needed. 

Mona: In our programme, every element, every component is focusing a lot on how to increase the role of Experts by Experience – how to involve them, and how to support other partners and organisations to involve them more too. Refugee Action want to support people with lived experience to get into senior roles in organisations. 

What training and support have you had since working with Refugee Action? 

Mona: We attended facilitation skills training and Emerging Leadership training. One of the most effective training I think is the shadowing work and in-job training that we are doing with Lora. She’s a very patient manager, and very supportive every time we ask a question, she will create space for learning. 

Maryam: We get feedback regularly from our managers, we get support from our team and then from time to time we have opportunities to learn from other teams through shadowing. I’m learning every day. 

Would you recommend a role like this to others with lived experience? 

Maryam: Definitely, within this role we not only get a chance to know about the refugee sector itself, but we learn about programme and project management, and the way the policies work in the UK. We learn the language and by language, I don’t mean the English language, but the language used in the workplace and the sector itself. We are given the opportunity to learn about different things based on our interests. I am trying to learn as much as possible from the wider team, so I’ll definitely recommend it to my friends or anyone else in the UK. The environment is created in a way that helps you learn. 

Mona: Yeah, I totally agree with Maryam. I would recommend this to anyone. The opportunity here gives you a chance to learn at your own pace.