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Our amazing volunteers give their time freely to help make Scotland a more welcoming place for people seeking safety - this was never truer than during the lockdown when we were no longer able to welcome people into our offices. We caught up with Mary, Jenny and Patricia, three of our longest serving volunteers, to find out more:
Jenny: “I retired six years ago and I’ve been volunteering with Scottish Refugee Council ever since. I can’t imagine many jobs that would be as rewarding.”
Patricia: “I was being supported by Scottish Refugee Council and I wanted to get involved so I could build more skills and meet new people.”
Mary: “I thought I’d give it a try and it’s been fabulous. The training is first class, the staff are lovely and I’ve made really good friends.”
During lockdown, many refugees and asylum seekers struggled with loneliness and isolation – our brilliant volunteers stepped in to help. “It was awful when the pandemic came along. We started phoning people to ask how they were.”
Jenny: “I was calling mothers who were stuck in flats with their kids and no technology or way of contacting the outside world. Even if they didn’t need anything, they appreciated us getting in touch for a chat.”
While the office was closed, we stayed connected with our volunteers via WhatsApp, video call and text. Laptops and mobile phones have been provided, so volunteers could continue helping from home. And although we weren’t able to celebrate Volunteers Week with our usual pot luck lunch, we held virtual parties on Zoom
Patricia: “The WhatsApp group is a really useful group but it’s also really nice. People share information about jobs, scholarships and events as well as gardening tips and recipes. I’ve been posting pictures of my carrots and courgettes!”
Mary: “Everyone is really appreciated. You feel like part of the team. I want to say a big thank you to the staff because they are here for you no matter what. They keep in touch and keep us up to date with everything.”
Mary: “When my laptop arrived, it felt like an old friend. I feel proud to be able to say I volunteer for Scottish Refugee Council. It’s just the best thing!”
Jenny: “You don’t feel like you’re ‘just a volunteer.’ We have always been made to feel included and like we’re making a difference. It was great when we were able to start volunteering online. We really missed it!” We’re committed to creating volunteering opportunities for people at all stages of the asylum process.
Like many of our volunteers, Patricia has lived experience of asylum: “Volunteering really builds your confidence and your communication skills. It’s good when you have a positive impact on someone and can help them, especially when its people who are in a similar situation to you. You feel like you are part of society because you are contributing and giving something back.”
We also work closely with organisations who are keen to involve refugee volunteers and hold monthly online Volunteering Information Afternoons for people from refugee backgrounds. To find out more, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org