My family fled the civil war in Somalia to England in search of a better life. The transition of resettlement brought about a social, cultural and language change. However, it was due to the robust support that my family received from various individuals that enabled us to overcome these barriers which are experienced by refugees when readjusting to their new lives. With the help of others, this allowed us to navigate our way around our community. By witnessing the support others have given us, this influenced my later years of volunteering in hopes of benefiting those in need of support.
My personal interest in volunteering started at the age of sixteen. Some of my volunteering roles included assisting with the development of different activities for vulnerable teenagers, as well as volunteering in the NHS with individuals that have endured traumatic life experiences. Furthermore, during my time as an undergraduate student, I participated in fundraising for orphans in addition to collecting clothes and toys for refugees and migrants that were impacted by the refugee crisis in 2015. My interest in volunteering continued throughout my postgraduate studies as I was inspired to volunteer at a NGO that assists refugees living in London to get into employment. The unemployment rate of refugees in the UK is estimated to be around 70%. Volunteering has allowed me to offer guidance to refugees seeking employment, but it has also shed a light on the many obstacles that refugees face when entering the labour market.
Alongside my work here at the Jesuit Refugee Service I am also volunteering at my local all-volunteer led library. This work entails preparing for various monthly activities and partaking in the Summer Reading Challenge designed to develop young children’s reading skills. These diverse volunteering opportunities have allowed me to work with a large cross-section of the community ranging from children, adolescence and adults, supporting vulnerable groups and marginalised communities. It has piqued my interest in working in a NGO that supports individuals from marginalised groups, particularly asylum seekers and refugees.
So, does volunteering matter? To that question, I say of course it does. With the current climate of austerity effecting the most vulnerable in society, with the rise of xenophobia and racism and the negative stereotypes perpetuated towards refugees, volunteering in organisations or with others allows us to challenge and tackle these hostile ways and beliefs within ourselves and within our communities. Volunteering encourages us to open dialogue and support others regardless of their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation and physical or mental disabilities.
For me, volunteering extends beyond developing practical and social skills. It is a perfect way of discovering the causes that you are truly passionate about. It is a platform to educate yourself on the many issues surrounding the world, and on the ways to create change whether it be large or small. Lastly, it is a way to give back to various communities that are in need of support.
Read more on what volunteering means to the JRS Community in our special Volunteers’ Week blog series.
If you’ve been inspired by Sara’s work with JRS UK, volunteer with us.