Why did you want to become a volunteer?
Having worked as a school teacher before returning to study for my master’s, I found it hard to adapt to the luxuries of simply studying for myself, rather than the rewarding rigours of working in service of others. Volunteering alongside my master’s has helped scratch that itch, allowing to me see my studies in a more fruitful light.
How would you describe your role?
I originally applied and worked as a Triage Officer, which at the time was a brand new role. This involved working at Refugee Council’s head office in Stratford on reception, greeting clients and visitors to the centre and answering any questions they might have. The triage specific elements of the role were based on the need for there to be someone with a specialist knowledge of the internal services provided by Refugee Council, as well external services elsewhere to which a client could be signposted.
I was subsequently offered an interim contract with Refugee Council, which took me away from the triage role and into their Integration team, . The Integration team works with clients to ensure they are accessing all necessary welfare services for which they are eligible, as well as providing guidance and advice on jobs, activities within their communities, and providing them with skills to allow them to flourish in their life in the UK. I have continued to volunteer in this role after the interim contract elapsed, which has been such a great stepping stone from my original triage role, building on the knowledge and experience I accrued there and getting a deepened sense of the workings of the organisation.
What difference do you feel you’ve made by volunteering?
I feel I have made a difference in both alleviating the highly saturated workload of the full time workers, whilst working with my colleagues to help ameliorate the situations of the large number of clients I interact with every day of my volunteering. What I have found is that clients, new and established, are often unaware of the services that are available to them, feeling thrown by the wayside. The simple act of calmly signposting or referring somebody in a friendly and warm manner has both the power to help ease their anxiety with their situation, as well as putting them in contact with a person or service which will help to address any of the life altering issues they may be facing.
What impact has volunteering had on you?
I have now gained specialised knowledge of policy of protocol with respect to the rights of both asylum seekers and refugees, as well as experience of liaising with other charities, organisations, and services. It’s also a great way of refining pre-existing skill sets in new environments. For instance, I am a keen linguist and have had cause to use my language skills, namely French, Spanish, and Russian in ways that don’t simply involve ordering food at a restaurant! However, the biggest impact for me is feeling a sense of purposefulness.
What’s the best thing about volunteering?
Aside from all of the reward you get from helping a cause you feel strongly about, the best thing about volunteering is the people you meet, be it colleagues or clients. In all of my volunteering and work experience within the charitable sector, I have consistently met the kindest, most supportive and most hard-working people.