Working with refugees can be fun and hugely rewarding. Below you can read an article written by Roisin Hegarty, who volunteered with us over the summer:
My name is Roisín, and I live in a tiny French village. My village is almost entirely populated by retired, white French citizens. When I came to Sheffield, on holiday with my aunt, I was shocked by the number of people of different ethnic origins. And it was a lovely shock, after having lived for so long in such a homogeneous environment.
However, I was also confronted with the less positive side of a big city: the blatant inequality of life there. I wanted to do something, but what? My aunt told me about City of Sanctuary, and I immediately wanted to get involved. Who wouldn’t? City of Sanctuary provides support for those who need it the most; for those who, even though they are not allowed to work, receive no benefits. How can society stand by and watch?
I certainly couldn’t.
Rodrigo helped me find a place at the Clothes Bank, where I volunteered for two months. The team there was amazing: I had never felt so welcomed! Everyone was so kind. And the work was very rewarding. I felt as though I was finally of use. It was great to be helping, to be doing something for people who really needed it.
And the people who use the Clothes Bank are fantastically brave. Even after all they’ve been through – war, famine, extreme poverty, the crossing of borders, coming so close to death, the fear of police, persecution and now deportation – they are still able to smile and chat with the volunteers. I remember one particular woman, who came in looking for a dress. I helped her find one which suited her, and she smiled – through tears. We spoke for a while, and she explained to me that it was a new experience for her, to be welcomed and helped. And that she had been ordered to go to the Home Office the next day, for what she did not yet know.
That is something asylum seekers just have to live with: the fear of any day being deported, for no other reason than because they were born in the ‘wrong’ country. How are people supposed to build a new life with such a terrifying prospect hovering over their heads?
These people are models for us all. I admire them greatly, and will be back to help them and City of Sanctuary as soon as I can!
Some of the ways you can volunteer with City of Sanctuary Sheffield
- You could help to welcome new arrivals at our Wednesday morning drop-in
- You could offer short term one to one support to asylum seekers with particular needs
- You could help with various tasks at the multi-agency drop-in on Wednesday afternoons
If you would like to know more about any of these roles, please email [email protected]