“Allowing people to see what might be possible”: Volunteering in detention – Part 2


“Allowing people to see what might be possible”: Volunteering in detention – Part 2

Martin, one of our newest volunteers, shares his reflections from visiting those in detention

29 November 2018

“Allowing people to see what might be possible”: Volunteering in detention – Part 2

It was not without some trepidation that I ventured to Harmondsworth for my first visit, but with some handholding from an experienced visitor to guide me though the essentials I met Omar (not his real name). His thick Arabic accent was difficult to understand, and still is, with his strange pronunciation of English and French but he seemed positive about his situation and its outcome. After the visit I felt a certain amount of inadequacy concerning my role. Not inasmuch as an inability to handle and support him but that my contribution was of so little consequence.

However, over subsequent visits his demeanour deteriorated as his application for a bail hearing was delayed and he was seeing others being released after having spent less time in detention than him.

My feelings of inadequacy were now compounded by frustration. Omar’s health, his prospects and his level of legal advice were, to me, insufficient. I was concerned that my support may not be providing what was needed in this situation. Being aware that JRS provides more than just emotional support through social visiting, I asked my volunteer colleagues who provided him with practical support and advice to share with me some more information about his case. To that end, I was uplifted by the discovery of the reason for the hold up in the Home Office decision.

You can accompany those we visit in detention through our monthly prayer resource

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Two recent visits have had to be cancelled as Omar has not been feeling well and although I have made it plain that as he has my telephone number and can contact me 24/7 he has not yet made that move to a more confidential association with me. Maybe I’m not what he thought he was getting when he requested a visitor; perhaps I should ask him if he might prefer another with whom he might be able to better interact.

After each visit I ask myself if I could have done anything differently, more constructively. Each time I don’t see any other approach other than being positive to Omar, suggesting he makes full use of the amenities of the centre, mental and physical, that he avails himself of the ‘Welfare’ facilities on a Thursday and keeps as close a contact with his solicitor as is appropriate to press his case to a solution.

How do I relax and recharge my batteries after a demanding visit? Brahms, Beethoven and for anger management Shostakovich 2nd Piano Concerto. The anger expressed in that fantastic first movement, Allegro, then the soothing balm of the Andante can reduce me to tears.

Do I want to continue? Most certainly, as long as I can contribute in any capacity to the work of JRS.


This blog was first published on The Detention Forum as part of #Unlocked18

The first part of this blog was publsihed yesterday

Photo credit: Image by @Carcazan.

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Jesuit Refugee Service UK
The Hurtado Jesuit Centre
2 Chandler Street, London E1W 2QT

020 7488 7310

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