“You are all amazing” – Celebrating Volunteers’ Week 2021

By June 1, 2021Blog post

Refugee Action is fortunate to have, at its core, a dedicated and committed team of volunteers supporting and driving our work forward. Each day, volunteers make a difference to the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum and, for that reason, we would like to take this week to publicly thank them.

WATCH: Sabiti’s message to volunteers

It has been a year like no other to volunteer. The pandemic has caused us to re-evaluate how we work and change our working practices. Our volunteers have adapted fantastically well to the challenges of delivering support online and ensuring we could continue vital work, particularly within Asylum Services.

Sadly, the pandemic also led to some volunteer roles being paused. Whilst these are now starting up again, and we are happy to welcome them back, we recognise that some volunteers will have lost their involvement and sense of connection. We hope, that as we move forward, we will reconnect with the warmth, vibrancy and energy that volunteers bring to Refugee Action. We would like to use Volunteers’ Week 2021 as a way of sharing our thanks to everyone who has been part of our organisation in some way or another.
Several thank you events have been organised across the country which will bring volunteers and staff together.

Below you can read messages from our front-line staff and people we support about the difference our volunteers make.

Volunteers – thank you!

The Increasing Asylum Justice project has been so lucky to have been working with two of our volunteers over the last year and both have been invaluable in running the project. Unfortunately, many of my volunteers have not been able to work from home due to childcare commitments or other logistical reasons, so it would have just been me managing my caseload of clients.

There is no way I could have managed to keep in contact with all my clients without the help of my two volunteers this year. The project would have literally ground to a halt. It has been even more important to make the regular check in calls with clients as well as the briefings at the various stages of the asylum process and clients are very happy that we have been in touch with them as they feel otherwise forgotten because the Home Office has not been interviewing or decision making as much as usual.

I am so grateful to my volunteers for the precious time that they have given to our project. Especially as it has not been easy working from home. – Donna, Project Coordinator.

I would like to thank Refugee Action from the bottom of my heart for all the support you offered me and specifically I would like to thank volunteer Philippa for her amazing support and compassion that she offered me while I was going through difficult time. You helped me a lot with my housing and financial needs, which as someone new to the country and does not read or speak English there is no way that I would have been able to advocate for myself to get basic needs.

Every time I speak to a person from Refugee Action, I feel valued as a person and feel hopeful. I just heard from my solicitor that the Home Office granted me refugee status, for which I am really happy, and I would like to share this good news with you as well. I am still waiting for all my papers to come through and I will speak to Philippa once I have my documents to see if she can help me with what to do next as I have not got a clue! – Freweini, client

For over a year, Asylum Crisis Manchester has been forced to deliver its services remotely, due to the Covid pandemic. Throughout this time, we have been working with a sizeable caseload of clients, many of whom have complex needs and complex circumstances and are navigating a system that is not designed to respond to such complexities, and within which exist numerous barriers to the realisation of their basic rights and needs. The pandemic has significantly exasperated these challenges.

Throughout this entire time, our volunteers have persevered with their weekly volunteering, demonstrating huge reserves of patience to cope with the challenges of remote working and the innumerable technological pitfalls and hiccups we have asked them to navigate along the way.

The commitment they have demonstrated to our clients and the unerring resilience and fortitude they have shown throughout the year is both hugely admirable and largely unfathomable to me. They have also brought a huge amount of experience, intelligence, insight, warmth, and empathy to their work with us. Without them we could not have achieved a fraction of what we have achieved and hundreds of individuals and families, who have fled persecution only to be faced by a hostile and uncaring asylum system, amid a global pandemic, would have been worse off without them. I am really looking forward to being able to thank them in person and to work alongside them in the office once again. – Dominic, Project Manager

Whilst the pandemic has affected many of our plans around resettling refugees over the past year, we are really pleased that refugee resettlement has recommenced. Our work with volunteers in our project has been on pause due to the impacts of the pandemic, but we are now grateful to be able to look forward and to reach out and reconnect with volunteers who have provided such invaluable support to resettling refugees over recent years.

Thank you to all those volunteers who have supported our work previously, and thanks for all the understanding and patience whilst we have gone through lots of pauses and changes to our services – we are hopeful many may wish to resume their roles. This Volunteers’ Week we will be celebrating the fantastic impact of volunteering on our programme and looking forward to connecting with both experienced and new volunteers over the coming weeks and months. – West Midlands Resettlement Team

Asylum Crisis London are ever so grateful to our volunteers for their contribution and the lasting impact they have made to the lives of so many of our project beneficiaries. Volunteers are at the heart of the ACL project, and we work together as a team to overcome the enormous challenges and difficulties that our clients often face when seeking to access asylum support. High team spirit, perseverance and dedication are some of the key strengths that characterise our volunteers. We at ACL are committed to continue working closely with our volunteers to develop their skills and understanding to maximise their volunteering potential and be able to use this learning in their future voluntary or paid roles. Dritan, Project Manager

In this past year, it has been great to get our volunteers back involved with the Asylum Crisis West Midlands project and assisting clients remotely from their own homes. We missed all they added into the project during the first lockdown and stayed connected with them through this time through calls and zooms. It is a testament to our volunteers that during a difficult year for everyone they were keen to get back to volunteering with us as soon as possible and are still motivated to give their time to help asylum seekers in the West Midlands. They have adapted to remote working as well as constantly changing Home Office policies.

With their help we have been able to help more vulnerable clients access support to lift them out of destitution during a pandemic as well as complete 300 welfare checks for our clients during lockdowns to make sure they were able to access covid guidance and ensure they were aware of support organisations around them. A big thank you to all our volunteers for their help and support this year! – Tamsyn, Project Co-ordinator

The Children and Families Project and the Advice and Wellbeing service in Bradford are hugely thankful for all the work of our volunteers over the past year. As all our work shifted to remote working, we have been so grateful for the volunteers who have been patient with us as we set up new systems, and then joined with us to continue to deliver vital services to our clients. We have had a variety of roles that volunteers have been able to continue their work in during the pandemic including immigration advice, well-being calls, zoom groups and one to one sessions, delivery driving, triaging all the phone messages. It truly is incredible thinking of all the creative roles that volunteers have played and continued to be a part of our Bradford team.

The resourcefulness, initiative and team working of our volunteer teams have really made our work possible. We thank you for all your support and care for the people we aim to serve, and we hope we will be able to find ways to celebrate in person with you all at some point soon! Thank you. – Christy, Children and Families Project

Since lockdown, our Experts by Experience (EBE) have supported the work of our front-line asylum services in Bradford, Birmingham and Manchester and through our Early Action and Asylum Guides projects. The EBE Steering Group has also helped shape the development and delivery of the organisation’s Strategic Plan.

They have also been a key part of RAS Voice, a national campaigns group, and of local groups which influence Refugee Action services. They have acted as an interface between service users and the Senior Leadership Team and Board of Refugee Action to shift more power to EBE’s and to bring about meaningful change. In addition, amongst other things, they have advocated, as part of the Communication Trap Campaign, on the quality of interpreting during asylum interviews.
Thank you to all our Experts by Experience! – Jonathan, Project Manager

Finally, it seems right to leave the last word to a volunteer!

After two years of experience in the voluntary work at Refugee Action, I can proudly say that this humanitarian mission that their teams do is invaluable. My experience in volunteering with them started in 2019, when I have been given this great opportunity to participate in the work of the Asylum Crisis Manchester Project, which mainly aims towards helping and supporting asylum seekers who are at risk of homelessness and poverty to have access to accommodations and financial support provided by the Home Office.
This experience enabled me to understand how the asylum support system works and the opportunities it offers to asylum seekers, how to advise clients about those opportunities and how to assist them if they chose to pursue a specific route. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the friendly environment that the Asylum Crisis Manchester team offers for its volunteers. – Wedad, Volunteer

Refugee Action engages with over 200 volunteers -we must not forget our trustees who are volunteers also and who provide fantastic guidance. If you are interested to learn more about volunteering, the opportunities it provides and how you can support our work, please contact Nigel Williams, National Volunteer Coordinator, at NigelW@refugee-action.org.uk and keep an eye on our volunteering website page for future volunteering opportunities.