Volunteers’ Week is a time to truly reflect on, and give thanks for, the dedication and commitment of our JRS volunteers. In countless ways, they make a difference to the lives of the refugee friends of JRS. The services we run for refugees facing destitution, and those affected by immigration detention, simply would not exist without their tireless contributions.
At JRS we often speak of the accompaniment that lies at the heart of our mission to serve and advocate for those who have been forcibly displaced. To accompany our friends is to walk humbly alongside them; to offer them, and us, the chance for mutual encounter and to build the solid foundation upon which we can assist those who seek refuge in the UK. Our volunteers often share with us the positive and long-lasting effects of accompaniment, which is to be found in everything they do.
The contribution volunteers make, shines through every aspect of our services. It is thanks to our volunteers that we have been able to drastically adapt our face-to-face services, continuing to provide the hospitality of our weekly Day Centre in other ways. Since May last year, we have provided 2873 food and toiletry parcels, thanks to our Emergency Response volunteers who have sorted, packed and delivered items to refugee friends. We have offered over 6288 hours of emotional support to 131 friends over-the-phone, thanks to our befriending volunteers. Our At Home hosts have welcomed 25 placements of refugee friends, who would otherwise have faced street homelessness, and our detention volunteers have continued to ease the struggle and isolation experienced by 47 people in detention, or who have recently left. Many religious, in particular, have provided vital spiritual accompaniment of refugee friends during this time, including through our refugee prayer groups.
As one of our refugee friends recently wrote:
“To volunteer means to freely offer to do something[…] To do this, one has to have passion or love for another person or organisation, which is one of God’s commandments to us.” –
So often, in the national discourse around refugees and asylum seekers, we hear others speak out of fear and indignation. To volunteer is the opposite; to act out of love. In doing so you choose to walk alongside others in hope. You also inspire others to open their hearts.
We are always grateful to welcome new volunteers to the JRS community. I encourage you to visit our volunteering page, and see what opportunities we have available at the moment.
I’d like to share with you this poem written by a refugee friend who has taken part in a number of our refugee activity groups at JRS. It is a privilege to see her creative talents flourish, thanks to the encouragement she has received from volunteers.
“The gifts of volunteering”.
To a life spun by catastrophe
Left with no choice or decision
Reached out to JRS
Where I was welcomed
Together with the activities
Co ordinated by staff and volunteers
We dived deeper to explore
The oceans of Knowledge
Enriching our life with new skills
And Pearls of wisdom.
Woven into fraternity of goodwill
With abundances of God’s graces
Thanks JRS for strengthening us forever
To strive for excellence.