My volunteering day at Jesuit Refugee Service


My volunteering day at Jesuit Refugee Service

A guest volunteer shares their impressions of our Thursday Day Centre.

23 October 2015

My volunteering day at Jesuit Refugee Service
Long before it was fashionable, the Jesuit Refugee Service at Wapping has been quietly helping hundreds of destitute refugees for many, many years. I had a great opportunity to volunteer there recently, and my experience was both one of enlightenment and happiness. I work for the Prince’s Trust charity In Kind Direct, and had known JRS only as a customer sourcing items for the ‘hygiene packs’ which they offer to refugees. So I wanted to get a first-hand experience of what they actually did, and what they were doing for the refugees here on the ground.

My first impression walking through the doors of their Wapping centre was one of light, welcome, cleanliness and cheer! From the very professional staff to the well trained volunteers it was a calm, happy and safe environment for any stressed refugees to spend the day. My job was to help the volunteer chef (himself a former refugee), put together a nutritious lunch for a hungry group of seventy destitute people. The basic soup mixture was supplied by a local café, Soupe du Jour, with sandwiches added by ‘Pret-a-Manger’. The chef’s enthusiasm was matched by his determination to create a meal that would delight and wow a group of people who are rarely given that kind of respect. I haven’t enjoyed cooking that much in years, and seeing the pleasure and appreciation on the diners’ faces was certainly thanks enough.

I learnt so much on the day. These refugees are given real hope, love and support by the staff and volunteers at this centre. They work with respect and equality for them all, and even the most desperate and difficult cases are handled with kindness and genuine empathy. Destitute refugees are not given much press as they often fall between the cracks of interest in the media, and here the Jesuit Refugee Service can make such a difference to those hidden lives. Their legal advice, hygiene packs, weekly food kitchens and very calm drop-in centre is a world away from the everyday lives of these refugees. I saw many of them arrive stressed and depressed, and then leave calmer and with some genuine hope that someone in the world still cares for them. Well done JRS, and thank you for giving me the opportunity to see such humanity at work in what is often a thankless, hidden and difficult world.

Claire Hanrahan is Senior Charity Partnerships Coordinator at In Kind Direct.

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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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