During the COVID-19 pandemic our volunteers have been working extremely hard to continue supporting people seeking sanctuary in Sheffield, and ensure that refugees and asylum seekers feel included and connected to the larger society. One of our volunteers in the COVID-19 Migrant Support Group, Ibtissam Al-Farah, has shared some notes on her recent experience:
From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, I offered my spare time and expertise to many charity organisations in the city, as well as continuing my main voluntary work with the DEWA [Development and Empowerment for Women’s Advancement] project. When the City of Sanctuary Sheffield team approached me to volunteer with them, I didn’t spend a minute thinking about it, because I knew the quality of their work and the great services that they are offering to asylum seekers and the community of refugees. I started volunteering with them at the end of March. I appreciate the support mechanism they have adapted and the way they that they have committed to help vulnerable people as much as they can. My area of expertise is working with asylum seekers and refugee women; by volunteering with COSS I have been able to support more vulnerable women who need help. Most of the women we work with have difficulty in approaching many of the services in the city by themselves, for many reasons, and particularly during the lockdown which has resulted in reduced public transport and closed the doors of many charity projects.
My role is not just online tasks and monitoring the screen, but also driving out to visit people, and offering help in different ways: picking and delivering their prescriptions, helping people with their shopping, and providing other extra support offered by DEWA to women.
I am delighted to be part of a vigorous and accountable team who managed to adapt and develop an alternative strategy to reach out to the beneficiaries who used to use the centre before lockdown, as well as extending their services to include more people. For me, both personally and as a DEWA member, I knew that reaching vulnerable people is not an easy task—and to include them in the service and build a good and trusted relationship is even more difficult. However, keeping COSS service active is extremely important and essential and volunteering with them during the COVID- 19 outbreak is the least thing I can do to help deprived people.
Thank you to Ibtissam and to all of our volunteers for continuing your crucial work during these difficult times!