Report of the
Volunteering and asylum conference
Cardiff, 7 June 2007
2. Comments from participants
4. The morning plenary
5. The workshops
5.1 Workshop A: Volunteering in the NHS and health-related projects
5.2 Workshop B: Looking at language issues/volunteering by young
refugees and asylum seekers
5.3 Workshop C: Encouraging Refugee Volunteering: the experience of
5.4 Workshop D: Experiences of volunteering: Refugee Voice Wales and North
Wales Fire and Rescue Service
5.5 Workshop E: Encouraging refugee volunteering: the experience of the
Welsh Refugee Council and housing associations
6. The afternoon plenary
7. Ways forward
Appendix 1 List of delegates
Appendix 2 Organisers’ contact details
To download further copies of this report, visit: www.tandem-uk.com
In June 2007, some 90 people from a wide range of organisations and groups met at the
Organisational Development and Training Centre, Whitchurch Hospital, Cardiff to
explore issues around volunteering and asylum.
The organisers were delighted to welcome people from many sectors, some with
personal experience of the asylum system, others from a range of agencies from across
Wales and some from further afield. Many of the participating organisations were
involved in developing and running volunteering programmes in a variety of contexts.
The names of delegates are listed in Appendix 1.
The organisers convened the conference in the knowledge that there are recognisable
and huge benefits for both volunteer and for the host community in the development of
volunteer placements for refugees and asylum seekers, not least in employment and
integration terms, but also in building social capital and developing relationships
between refugee and host communities.
However, we also recognised the reality that while refugees and asylum seekers often
volunteer within their own communities or with refugee organisations they know and
trust, research indicates that fewer volunteer outside the refugee sector. This may be
for a variety of reasons, and there are still clear benefits and a need for refugees and
asylum seekers to volunteer within their own communities. However, it is important that
asylum seekers and refugees are informed about and encouraged to make informed
choices about volunteering, and are able, with confidence, to access volunteering
opportunities which reflect their interests, skills and goals.
Our aim at the conference was, therefore, to act as a bridge or a catalyst, bringing
together volunteer managers, policy makers, representatives of a wide range of
organisations and groups from diverse areas of interest, and individual refugees and
asylum seekers. We aimed to encourage a dialogue between participants, explore the
possibilities, highlight good practice, and generate ideas. Whilst organising the
conference, we reflected on the following three questions:
• What are the barriers to those organisations who want to attract a more diverse
range of volunteers? How can they be encouraged to directly engage with refugee
• How can volunteering centres successfully encourage refugees and asylum seekers
to volunteer with organisations outside the refugee sector?
• How can refugee communities develop their capacity to support volunteer
placements and promote volunteering opportunities across a range of
organisations and sectors?
• What is the role of agencies in the refugee sector in promoting volunteering for
Organisers and funders
The conference was organised by a number of organisations with particular experience
or interest in this area. They were: Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust; Displaced People in
Action; The Parade ESOL Service; Refugee Voice Wales; tandem; Voluntary Community
Service; Wales Council for Voluntary Action; Welsh Assembly Government; the Welsh
Consortium for Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants (WCRASAM); Welsh Refugee
The names of the organisers and their contact details are listed in Appendix 2.
The event was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government. Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust
generously provided free meeting space, and the Welsh Refugee Council paid for the
attendance of several representatives of refugee community organisations. Their
backing, and the commitment and enthusiasm of the delegates, speakers (in workshops
and plenary sessions), the chairperson, facilitators, note takers and other organisers, is
The conference was also able to build on the publication in 2006 of A Part of Society, by
Ruth Wilson and Hannah Lewis. This report, which explores volunteering by refugees and
asylum seekers in mainstream, non-refugee organisations, includes a case study of the
Whitchurch Hospital (Cardiff) and some of the local organisations that have helped
facilitate volunteering at the hospital. Copies of the handbook were distributed at the
conference, and can be ordered or downloaded from: www.tandem-uk.com
2. Comments from participants
"The range of speakers in the morning plenary was fantastic, covering a range of
different perspectives and issues. Just what we needed to get us thinking and inspired
for the day ahead. An excellent start."
"The seminar allowed me to focus more clearly on approaching asylum seeker and
refugee organisations and involving them with my scheme."
"I found it helpful discussing challenges to asylum seekers and refugees volunteering and
"We met individuals and organisations who we have never been in touch with before."
"It was good to talk to different people and learn new ideas."
"It was good to find out about case studies of other projects.”
11.00 Plenary session
Chair: Graham Benfield, Chief Executive, WCVA
Speakers: Shumaila Ali, Volunteer, CAB Newport
Aled Edwards, chair, Displaced People in Action
Ruth Wilson, author, „A Part of Society: refugees and asylum seekers
volunteering in the UK‟
Peter Owen, Head, Voluntary Sector and Inclusion Unit, Welsh
A: Volunteering in the NHS and health-related projects
B: Looking at language issues/volunteering by young
refugees and asylum seekers
C: Encouraging Refugee Volunteering: the experience of SOVA
D: Experiences of volunteering: Refugee Voice Wales and North
Wales Fire and Rescue Service
E: Encouraging refugee volunteering: the experience of the Welsh
Refugee Council and housing associations
1.45 Workshops repeated
3.00 Plenary session
Speakers: Ron Davies, Director, Valleys Race Equality Council (Valrec)
Eid Ali Ahmed, Deputy Chief Executive, Welsh Refugee Council
Anne Hubbard, Manager, Welsh Consortium for Refugees, Asylum
Seekers and Migrants
4. The morning plenary
The Chair and speakers covered a wide range of issues. While volunteering was central
to the presentations, discussions touched on issues of equality, racism, diversity, the
history of immigration in the UK and Wales, the political context, the particular
experiences of people in Wales, the importance of community and tolerance, and ways
of building bridges between communities.
The following are just a few points drawn from the morning plenary:
• Volunteering in mainstream organisations can be and has to be mutually
beneficial to volunteers and the organisations.
• The strategy and support structure aimed at encouraging volunteering by asylum
seekers and refugees has to be different from the one being used currently for
resident black and minority ethnic communities.
• Asylum seekers and refugees can face the same barriers when accessing
volunteering placements as the barriers they sometimes encounter when seeking
• Certain bureaucratic requirements actively discourage potential volunteers
securing placements by seeming to put up insurmountable and prohibitive
barriers. Some organisations recruiting volunteers lack knowledge about how to
overcome these barriers.
• There are however, success stories which have kept hopes alive of increasing and
encouraging mainstream volunteering by refugees and asylum seekers - these
cases also provide useful lessons for future.
• Volunteering is an ideal way to gain valuable experience in an area in which you
might want to seek employment in the future: it can help refugees and asylum
seekers to gain work experience; become familiar with the Welsh work
environment; meet people outside their family and cultural group.
• There is a need for a trusted intermediary person to signpost a potential
volunteer towards volunteering and support them in the process.
• We should recognise the 'pioneering' refugee and asylum seeker volunteers who
are able to venture into volunteering beyond the refugee/asylum sector - as
bridge-builders, ambassadors, role models.
• Volunteering opportunities do not always match your own personal skills, but
through being flexible and trying new things you can develop new abilities, build
on previous experience and increase your employability.
• Refugees and asylum seekers should not be made to integrate with the indigenous
population; rather we should aim for an inclusive society where everybody
• The Welsh Assembly Government recognises the need to promote volunteering
opportunities in mainstream organisations for refugees and asylum seekers.
Government rules on volunteering by asylum seekers and refugees:
Speakers reinforced the message that asylum seekers and refugees are allowed to
volunteer. The website of the Immigration and Borders Agency has a clear statement
5. The workshops
This section has summaries of the presentations and discussions in each of the five
workshops (morning and afternoon sessions).
5.1 Workshop A: Volunteering in the NHS and health-related projects
Speakers: Jill Griffiths, Whitchurch Hospital
Zara Tavasoli, Whitchurch Hospital
Charlotte Longomo, Whitchurch Hospital
Facilitator: Minkesh Sood, Displaced People in Action (DPIA)
Note taker am: Katie McDonald, Voluntary Community Service
Note taker pm: Tara Croxton, Welsh Assembly
Morning session (Workshop A)
Presentation (Jill Griffiths)
The asylum-seeker volunteering scheme began when Displaced People in Action (DPIA)
approached Jill Griffiths. There was already a diverse volunteer team at Whitchurch
Hospital owing to the intake of volunteers from all over Europe through the European
Voluntary Service (EVS) programme, so including asylum-seeker volunteers was an easy
step to take.
The benefits for asylum-seeker volunteers include building up self-esteem, confidence
and experience in the UK, getting an insight into the NHS, improved social interaction,
communication and integration.
Volunteers generally help in befriending roles throughout the hospital – helping with
group work and as escorts etc. As patients are from many cultures, one benefit to the
hospital has been having volunteers from the same country as the patient, whom the
patient can relate to. Staff feedback has been positive and there has been no problem
that has proved impossible to overcome but the most difficult barrier is the lack of
proficiency in the English language. This is especially pronounced with patients who
have communication problems. Jill has introduced a „buddying‟ system, whereby one
less-fluent volunteer is paired with one more-fluent volunteer, to overcome this.
Jill has found asylum-seeker volunteers hard-working, enthusiastic and above all
reliable. She has found some asylum-seekers very fearful of other people finding out
about their status. Some have endured a lot of stress, escaping terrible atrocities and so
a great deal of sensitivity is required in working with these volunteers.
In terms of recruitment, Jill gets referrals from the volunteer centres; however, she has
found word of mouth to be the best form of recruitment
Has been in the UK for four years and began volunteering at Whitchurch Hospital in
November 2005. DPIA made the suggestion and gave assistance with the application
form. She was Interested in working with older people and an interview with Jill helped
her to be placed in the right area of the hospital. She was a teacher in her country of
origin, but her English language skills were not sufficient to allow her to teach in the UK.
Volunteering has provided her with a rewarding alternative, as well as giving her an
insight into British culture and society. She is able to develop her English language skills
whilst continuing to study English formally at college.
Currently learning English at Coleg Glan Hafren and would like to study Health and
Social Care, but language is a barrier at the moment. Last June a friend passed on Jill‟s
phone number and she soon arranged an interview. She found Jill very kind and
supportive. In Congo she used to be a primary school teacher and she is also a mother so
her main experiences in life have been helping others; this is why she wanted to help at
Whitchurch Hospital. She also wanted to increase her experience and improve her
English skills. She really enjoys supporting patients, particularly women who have just
had children. Her goal is to improve her English and get a better job.
Q: What is your volunteer recruitment process?
Mostly word of mouth, but also volunteer centres. There is always a waiting list for
volunteers as it is very popular, and there is a queue of 16/17 years olds waiting to get
involved as soon as they turn 18. Also, there are a lot of psychology students looking for
experience in the NHS, as well as a constant stream of European Voluntary Service (EVS)
volunteers. Jill is the only staff member responsible for volunteers, and therefore is
restricted in terms of the numbers of volunteers that can be taken on at any one time.
Q: What about CRB checks?
There are some difficulties – explaining the concept to asylum-seekers and why they
have to be done, and also working out addresses for the last five years; some have
difficulty providing this level of detail, especially the first address they had when they
arrived in the UK (this is because were only there for a short period of time, until they
were dispersed). Although obtaining supporting information and documents isn‟t easy, it
is usually OK as they can use medical cards, college cards etc; there is no option but to
overcome the barriers as CRB checks are essential in the NHS.
References are the bigger problem, as they are meant to have known the person for over
a year; exceptions are made for asylum-seekers who may not have been in the UK for
The volunteers cannot begin until Jill has received two references, a completed
occupational health questionnaire and interview, which can be a lengthy process so
patience is required. The volunteer can start before the CRB is cleared as long as they
are not working one on one with patients.
General agreement from the group that shadowing staff before CRB clearance is
received is good practice.
Q: How do you overcome lack of proficiency in English?
Body language: a smile goes a long way. Also, English quickly improves through the
Q: How long do volunteers stay for?
It depends on who the volunteer is: EVS 6 – 12 months, young people six months but
asylum-seekers can often stay for a longer period of time because they are waiting a
long time for a decision to be made and cannot work during this period. There is lots of
paperwork involved so they want volunteers to stay as long as possible. Jill is working on
developing volunteer certificates.
Q: Once you get the first asylum-seeker it seems to snowball but how do you get the
DPIA! Intermediary organisations working in partnership.
Comment: The person at the front-line has to be informed and welcoming in order for
there to be successful inclusion of asylum-seekers or they could be put off at the first
hurdle. There is a wide spectrum of response to asylum-seekers, from Jill‟s welcoming
attitude to an instant „we don‟t deal with them‟ type response. There is a lot of
negativity/fear/misunderstanding/ignorance – especially when people see „employment
prohibited‟ on the front of their identity card.
Afternoon session (Workshop A)
• Benefits of volunteering in the NHS
Confidence building, restoring self-esteem, improving language skills and can increase
knowledge of culture and customs.
• Charging for secondary health care for failed asylum seekers
Need to continue to lobby the government on this issue, although clarification that they
still have access to emergency care.
• Inclusion of volunteers at Whitchurch Hospital?
Yes, no distinguishing between refugee, asylum seeker and indigenous population
• Is language barrier a problem?
Initially there can be a barrier, especially with older people who may also have negative
perceptions of refugees/asylum seekers. But experience finds that this is quickly
overcome – and the language skills developed through interaction, a very positive effect
of volunteering (particularly with current long waiting lists for formal ESOL classes).
In addition, service users of Whitchurch Hospital who have lost the power of speech can
interact and benefit greatly from working with volunteers – any language barrier can be
tackled through use of positive body language.
• Other barriers to volunteering by refugees/asylum seekers?
Engaging and contacting refugees/asylum seekers about volunteering opportunities.
Intermediary organisations – like Displaced People in Action (DPIA) have had much
success in this, but also word of mouth through refugee/asylum seeker communities has
been a successful mechanism for Whitchurch Hospital.
• CRB check issues
These can take up to 3 months to be carried out for refugees/asylum seekers and are
necessary for some volunteering opportunities, especially when working with children or
Suggestions for still utilising the volunteer whilst waiting for the check to be carried out
include, looking for other tasks they can do or using personal references. A delay in
waiting for CRB checks can result in losing the volunteer, if this is not carefully
• Other volunteering opportunities in mainstream organisations
South Wales Police are currently looking to set up a scheme (Contact Chief Inspector
Clive Perry, Minority Support Unit) for community volunteers, in which they would like
to tap-into the refugee and asylum seeker communities.
Comments on other mainstream organisations – such as the Fire and Rescue Service in
Wrexham also providing volunteering opportunities for refugees/asylum seekers via
Noted that majority of volunteers at present are women.
5.2 Workshop B: Looking at language issues/volunteering by young
Refugees and asylum seekers
Speakers: Victoria White, the Parade ESOL Service
Paula Hemming, the Parade ESOL Service
Ruth-Naomi Durham, Displaced People in Action
Facilitator: Eid Ali Ahmed, Welsh Refugee Council
Note taker am: Suzanne McKane, Welsh Consortium
Note taker pm: Katie McDonald, Voluntary Community Service
Morning session (Workshop B)
Two presentations were given:
• On the work of the ESOL PARADE which included a brief outline of the role of
volunteers, not as English teachers but as class room assistants
• On the Duke of Edinburgh Award (DEA): Targeting asylum seekers from the ages
16-25 and working with them on a range of activities including outdoor activities
and volunteer work.
DEA: Lessons learned
-Never make assumptions, when given the choice the organisers assumed all the
participants would want to be involved in an outdoor activity whereas every single
participant (20) chose to do volunteer work in a charity shop.
-There was the question if any of the organisers were from the refugee or asylum
seeking community. The answer was no but this is a pilot project and it is hoped that
participants will work up through the scheme to become leaders.
-This was raised as a question for volunteering in the Parade but it was advised that they
were not needed as it all took place in a classroom environment and the volunteers were
Qualifications from country of origin
It was noted that recognition of qualifications achieved in home countries was
significant for building self confidence and of course the very act of volunteering was a
There were a couple of participants who were ESOL qualified but never used it and the
question was asked if there was agency where people like this could register and teach
on a volunteer basis? No one knew of such an agency.
One member of the group spoke of their own bad experience volunteering in a
classroom; the teacher just sat them in a corner and did not include them. This was
noted as bad teaching practice, but it also highlighted the subjectivity of the volunteers‟
experience. Other comments included:
• The risk of volunteers being given menial tasks just for the „sake‟ of having them
• Patience is needed both on the part of the organisation and the volunteer.
• The issues of accessing ESOL was raised, and the barriers faced by not having language
• The WRC „skills audit‟ was mentioned - this found that even the most highly skilled
among the refugee community suffered high unemployment.
• One participant noted that there was a lot of expertise in the room but people were
not working together.
DEA gender ratio and schools
The gender ratio was queried on the DEA, 18 boys 2 girls, when asked why participants
were advised this was reflective of the client base of the Parade where recruitment was
- Therefore this is not necessarily an indication of an issue where females were not
accessing a service.
- It is also important to note that the DEA is also run through schools so there may
be refugee and asylum seeking children participating in the DEA just not accessing
it through this scheme.
Afternoon session (Workshop B)
The focus of this session is on language and barriers encountered at the Parade, and the
Duke of Edinburgh award scheme.
Paula Hemming: Personally responsible for recruiting and training volunteers who are
mainly placed within the classroom. Traditionally the volunteer base has been white and
middle class but this has been changing within the last year. They are especially
receiving interest from BME volunteers and from refugees and asylum-seekers. They
now have volunteers from Somalia, China and other countries. They don‟t find they have
to make too much effort with regards to recruitment – word of mouth, volunteer centres
and SOVA all work well.
To commence volunteering, volunteers must have an informal interview and then
commit to volunteer for a minimum of 2 hours per week for 6 weeks (an academic half-
term). All new volunteers are offered City and Guilds Qualification Level 2 Award in
Literacy, Language, Numeracy and ICT Awareness for which the fee is wavered. No prior
qualification is required for this. They are then offered the chance to do the second part
of this qualification – Certification in Learning Support for which Level 2 English
proficiency is required (equivalent to GCSE A* - C). One of the bigger barriers to
volunteering is language proficiency – volunteers must be proficient in English at Level 2
Volunteers come from all walks of life – some are retired, some are on a gap year, some
just want to help others, some want to go down the ESOL career path.
There are 2,400 learners at the Parade, and 93 different languages spoken so cultural
sensitivity is key. At the Parade classes are graded according to their proficiency but at
Outreach there is a more mixed ability.
The Parade has worked in partnership with volunteer involving organisations such as
AWEMA and the Welsh Refugee Council to deliver the above courses to their volunteers.
The women at AWEMA really enjoyed the course and felt empowered by it and are now
thinking of going on to Level 3 (which is an accepted level for teaching in Wales).
Volunteer: Already had a master in teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages but
it was not recognised within the UK. Approached SOVA who referred her to the Parade.
They advised her that the Level 2 was probably the best was forward and she has found
the experience very positive.
Victoria White: Duke of Edinburgh is an award scheme for 14 – 25 year olds designed to
get young people involved in the community around them via 4 sections: Sport, Skill,
Expedition, and Volunteering. There are about 250 young people at the Parade and they
only tend to have 4 – 6 hours of learning a week but are restricted from getting involved
in other activities because of money. The Parade decided to pilot Duke of Edinburgh
(DOE) with asylum-seekers in Wales in association with DPIA who had also been
considering the scheme. DOE tends to only have a high profile within mainstream
education so they hoped to get their young people familiar with it at Bronze level so
that they might continue with Silver or Gold when they were in mainstream educational
Ruth-Naomi Durham: Apart from the young people at the Parade, DPIA also offered this
to young people involved in other refugee and asylum-seeker organisations in Cardiff.
They worked in partnership with Cardiff County Council‟s Outdoor Pursuits Team to put
on a day that would give the young people an idea of what DOE was all about. As a
result of this 20 people embarked on it.
Victoria White: For the volunteering section they approached the Cardiff volunteer
bureau, VCS, as normally this would be sorted in-school so some help was needed.
Victoria and Ruth-Naomi selected a few options that they thought would be popular:
BTCV, Pedal Power and as a fall-back charity shops. They thought options that did not
require great English fluency and that were quite practical and hands-on (like the rest of
the DOE Award is) would be the first choice. To their surprise the whole group chose to
help in a charity shop and they are not entirely sure why – developing work skills
perhaps? They realised that you cannot assume you know what the group want or treat
them as special (by deciding what they will or won‟t be interested in for example) – but
just need to treat them as any other young people and let them make their own minds
Comment: Education into the British concept of volunteering is needed as many
asylum-seekers think that it‟s simply being made to work for free when they are not
permitted to engage in paid employment. It can be seen as a negative thing – should
there be a course to address this issue?
Eid Ali Ahmed: The Welsh Refugee Council runs such a course to specifically tackle this.
Volunteer: spoke of his experience of coming to volunteer through the WRC and how it
had changed his attitude so that he was happy and proud to be building skills that would
secure his future employment in Britain through voluntary work.
Q: We are seeking to diversify our volunteer team – is it possible to bring in language
tuition as part of the volunteer training?
A: Bawso and Women‟s Workshop bring in ESOL trainers and as Paula has said she has
worked in partnership with AWEMA and WRC for the same purpose. There are long
waiting lists for the Parade so if other organisations had qualified ESOL teachers it could
help to reduce the list.
Eid Ali Ahmed: The WRC recently organised an intensive 2/3 day course at UWIC to
train people as tutors. Being told they have to wait 6 months is a big shock and it is a
problem that needs to be addressed at a national level.
EMAS Cardiff provide mentoring and extra-curricular activities for Somali young people
and find that involving asylum-seeker volunteers means they get volunteers who are very
5.3 Workshop C: Encouraging Refugee volunteering: the experience of
Speakers: Tony Harte, SOVA
Tarig Sariousi, SOVA
Adil Shashaty, SOVA
Facilitator: Fiona Liddell, WCVA
Note-taker (am): Amanda Blackwell, Voluntary Community Service
Note-taker (pm): Fiona Liddell, WCVA
The main aim of SOVA: “To support others through volunteer action”.
Morning session (Workshop C)
Points for discussion:
„Barriers‟ for refugees and asylum seekers include: isolation, UK experience and
language. The only practical way to remove these barriers is through
However; although refugees are coming to this country ready to contribute, they
need support to do this. SOVA can offer this support by providing mentors for
refugees within their communities.
Volunteering for refugees must not be limited to the voluntary sector; SOVA
attempts to encourage volunteering within the statutory sector. One example of
this is attempts to place volunteers within the police force.
We need to extend opportunities outside of the voluntary sector, e.g. to include
„shadowing schemes/work placements‟ as well as regular volunteering.
A „swap‟ system with staff from statutory workplaces with refugees? The refugee
can take the place of a statutory worker whilst the statutory worker goes to do
voluntary work in the voluntary sector.
„Time Together‟ - a programme already in place by SOVA – they recruit members
of the public to work as mentors for refugees - encouraging volunteering for
refugees to gain experience and break down social barriers: isolation, language,
Volunteering within voluntary organisations can be problematic because there is
often a lack of money to pay expenses for refugees. Also, there is a lack of money
to provide training to progress the refugees.
An ideal situation would be for WAG to provide a pot of money to voluntary
organisations to enable them to offer free training for refugees. It was noted that
this type of funding is available to DPIA (Displaced People in Action).
SOVA is keen to move outside the voluntary sector to provide opportunities for
refugees, but were reminded not to forget about the voluntary sector, as they are
better equipped to deal with volunteers (access to volunteering policies etc).
It was suggested that if more money was available to pay expenses, more
voluntary opportunities could be made available for refugees.
There is a lack of confidence between employers and refugees - employers don't
know who the refugee is - they are portrayed by the media as black or Asian for
example, rarely as European.
The general feeling is that organisations need a „pioneer‟ volunteer to help to
reach the refugee communities, to help prevent isolation of the organisations
from the groups.
South Wales Police are looking for community volunteers to work to protect the
refugee and asylum seekers by bridging the gap between the communities and the
Mutual trust needs to be built so that integration between refugee communities
and the local community is encouraged/made easier.
To assist with a solution to the above problems, SOVA is introducing a new
scheme to provide mentors for young refugees and asylum seekers within their
own communities. This programme is called the 'Appropriate Adult' scheme (or
Examples of positive experiences of volunteering for refugees:
SOVA had brought along with them today a speaker who currently works for SOVA
as a project manager but began his experience with SOVA as a volunteer. The
lesson here is that: volunteering gives people the chance not only to increase
their skills, but to showcase their abilities to employers.
The Time Together scheme is a chance for refugees to gain a mentor (also a
volunteer) to help them to integrate in their communities... and then be
encouraged and supported to volunteer themselves.
SOVA is proud of their scheme, as the beauty of it is that human relationships are
established, with the result usually being that the mentors and the mentees
Friendship = confidence for the community and the refugee.
Afternoon session (Workshop C)
Adil Shashaty’s introduction:
He was recruited to a volunteer project in Swansea and then to SOVA. Works on
the Time Together mentoring project for asylum seekers and refugees. In SOVA,
clients often become volunteer mentors themselves. The training for mentors
includes awareness raising about cultural differences
He spoke of barriers faced by refugees: language, lack of UK experience, lack of
confidence in refugees by employers. Volunteering opens the way to develop
skills, mutual trust and combat isolation.
He would like to see systematic encouragement of volunteering in all sectors –
including work shadowing in public and private sectors. There is need for good
role models from refugee sector within public service in Wales.
the role of volunteering in helping to overcome negative myths and negative press
about asylum seekers and in developing good role models
there is potential for asylum seekers to use their skills in providing support for
voluntary organisations, e.g. financier to serve as a treasurer, teacher to help in
asylum seekers raise their own profile by volunteering: it helps the process of
5.4 Workshop D: Experiences of volunteering: Refugee Voice Wales and
North Wales Fire and Rescue Service
Speakers: Pierrot Ngadi, Refugee Voice Wales
Hanna Straiotto, N Wales Fire and Rescue Service/Refugee Voice of
Phil Owen, N Wales Fire and Rescue Service
Facilitator: Anne Hubbard, Welsh Consortium
Note taker pm: Amanda Blackwell, Voluntary Community Service
Morning session (Workshop D)
Presentation: Pierrot Ngadi (Refugee Voice Wales)
- Volunteering has strong links with the concepts of empowerment, equality,
diversity and self-esteem. It can help people access employment. Volunteering
must include both men and women. A community presence is educational for
mainstream services and organisations, and can help them develop in various
ways. Issues include: child-care, limitations of language.
Presentation: Phil Owen (N Wales Fire and Rescue Service)
- Fire safety, dwelling places of vulnerable adults and refugees/asylum seekers.
Importance of accessing refugees/asylum seekers‟ properties for fire-prevention.
Advocacy and volunteers required for Fire Service.
Presentation: Hannah Straiotto (N Wales Fire Service/Refugee Voice Wales)
- Being involved with the Fire Service increased the self-esteem of asylum seeker
volunteers. Hannah informed the group of her voluntary experiences within the
Fire Service. The Fire Service has much to learn about working with refugees and
asylum seekers - volunteering a way of doing this. As Hannah is involved in both
the Fire Service and Refugee Voice Wales, she is able to act as a link person, and
share information both ways.
• WCVA should take these experiences and issues on board and develop
volunteering by refugees and asylum seekers
• DPIA – capacity, experience – share information
• Strategy for change – contact list
Afternoon session (Workshop D)
Points for discussion:
Volunteering - what is it about? Refugees and asylum seekers need the volunteering
process to be clearly explained, as most are not accustomed to it: they see it as
merely working for no pay.
The benefits of volunteering need to be clearly pointed out to refugees, such as the
- make friends
- learn new skills
- integrate with their communities
- gain a sense of „belonging‟
Refugees tend to volunteer amongst their own communities: this is because they
know and trust them. However, to really make volunteering worthwhile we need to
move beyond this.
The main barriers that refugees face are:
- limited knowledge of the „system‟ in Britain
- language barriers
The way to encourage refugees and asylum seekers to volunteer is to treat them with
the respect they deserve, so that the refugees feel they are being treated equally
and so gain confidence.
The main way that organisations can ensure equal treatment is to introduce
N Wales Fire and Rescue Service:
The Fire Service in North Wales has been attempting to address the problem of the
high numbers of deaths caused by house fires in the last year (10).
The Fire Service feels that these deaths were all avoidable if the tenants/owners of
these homes were made away of fire safety awareness.
The Fire Service has compiled a list of „vulnerable people‟: asylum seekers are on
The Fire Service has been implementing a programme to introduce referral partners
to get people into the homes of vulnerable people to spread the fire safety
awareness message as widely as possible...
It would be helpful if asylum seekers and refugees could volunteer to work within
their own communities to help prevent deaths: refugees and asylum seekers are also
more likely to let other refugees into their homes as there is a higher level of trust,
also translation can be helpful.
The fire station has a refugee volunteer in the administration department, she was
very happy to be given the chance to brush up on her IT skills, whilst the Fire and
Rescue Service was very happy to gain some insight into how refugees and asylum
seekers are best reached.
The Fire Service has paid for various training courses for the volunteer and she has
had the chance to enhance her skills, meet new friends, and learn more about the
employment system in Britain… This has been a very positive experience for both
North Wales Fire and Rescue Service are very open to volunteers, and is inclusive of
all members of the public.
• CRB Checks: often people are negative towards refugees and asylum seekers
regarding CRB checks (people see it as too much trouble). Also, organisations all
want their own done, so an individual may need to have multiple checks!
• Awareness: refugees and asylum seekers often don‟t know where to go to volunteer.
They don‟t know which organisations will accept them and be supportive, and also
which ones will best utilise their skills.
• Embarrassment: refugees and asylum seekers are often worried about how people
will react when they find out that they are asylum seekers or refugees, so shame
becomes an invisible barrier for them.
• Ignorance: communities often don‟t understand about refugees and asylum seekers,
they don‟t understand why they have fled their own countries, and are misinformed
by the media portrayals.
What can we do?
A two way confidence needs to be built in order for trust to be established between
the refugees, asylum seekers, and their communities, and also between the
organisations and the refugee or asylum seeker.
Children need to be educated in schools about refugees and asylum seekers (as they
are the generation of tomorrow) via workshops and dance etc.
Links need to be built
The information published by the media needs to be encouraged to change, and
ensure that the reputation that precedes the refugee is not a bad one.
Childcare provision needs to be improved for the refugees and asylum seekers who
have children, so that they too can have the opportunity to volunteer.
5.5 Workshop E: Encouraging refugee volunteering: the experience of
the Welsh Refugee Council and housing associations
Speakers: Richard McQuillan, Haford Housing Association
Christian Masengo, Haford Housing Association
Facilitator: Tarek Samad, Welsh Refugee Council
Note taker is: Tara Croxton, Welsh Assembly
Note taker pm: Suzanne McKane, Welsh Consortium
Morning session (Workshop E)
• Meeting the housing needs of disabled refugees and asylum seekers
Cardiff/RCT housing associations making provision for disabled clients, however yet to
be available in other areas.
• Volunteering opportunities for asylum seekers
Integration in Wales begins on day one – asylum seekers should not wait for a decision on
their applications before exploring opportunities to volunteer / mixing with
• Lack of affordable housing in Wales
Only 3-4%of people in Cardiff on housing waiting lists will get housed each year – lack of
affordable housing for both refugees and indigenous population. More information needs
to be made available to refugees on affordable housing.
• Impact of New Asylum Model (NAM) speeding up application process
A quicker decision yet delays in receiving benefits, NI numbers etc. making it difficult to
leave NASS (National Asylum Support Service) accommodation within the stipulated 28
Explained that housing associations cannot prioritise refugees or fast track those for
housing as this would be discriminatory on grounds of race. However, the points system
is designed to help refugees.
• Utilising previous skills / experience in volunteering placements
This is a good starting point, but sometimes not possible and looking at transferable
skills should be considered.
Afternoon session (Workshop E)
Presentation was given highlighting the problems encountered around volunteering and
the rewards received. This was given from both the agencies point of view (Hafod
Housing) and the volunteer‟s point of view.
- At the time Christian began volunteering with them, the company was going
through changes and several staff members had left.
- Because of the timing the presence of a volunteer was difficult and it was a
source of extra work.
- First time many staff members had meet an asylum seeker, it was a rewarding
and educational experience. Christian is now a valued member of the team
- People within the asylum seeking community were negative about volunteering,
saying: Why do you want to do that? It is a waste of time, nothing will come of it.
- Improved language skills
- Improved office skills
- Increased self confidence
- Had lived in the area for a long time before working on the Hafod Housing Office
but didn‟t know any of the neighbours that have changed now genuinely feels part
of a community.
- Confidence to participate in other activities e.g. „A couple of years ago if I saw a
policeman I would walk the other way, now we are working together‟ (referring
to the police who acted as referees for the matches in Refugee Week)
- Change in attitude of the people who were negative initially, they have seen how
volunteering has benefited C.M. and now want to volunteer as well.
There was a brief discussion after the presentation:
- It was highlighted that the volunteer was fortunate to get this position, and more
needs to be done to promote refugees and asylum seekers volunteering in
mainstream organisations, a more strategic approach.
- It was noted that each local authority in Wales has a volunteering bureau and
perhaps links need to be improved between these and Refugee Community
6. The afternoon plenary
The following are just a few of the points raised in the final plenary session:
• volunteering is a hugely important factor in achieving successful integration of
• volunteering is a key way of building bridges between communities
• The types of volunteering opportunities are not limited to the voluntary sector, or
indeed to organisations who specifically work with the refugees and asylum
• Many mainstream organisations want very much to engage with refugees and
asylum seekers, but they may be unclear about how to make it happen.
• Some asylum seekers are not confident volunteering in mainstream organisations
because of perceptions about asylum seekers
• Asylum seekers need to let go of their own preconceptions as to where and how
they might fit into their new society and to think afresh about what they can
realistically do. It might involve a change of career direction.
• funding is needed to initiate projects which bring 'host' and asylum seeker and
refugee communities together
• Now the Welsh Assembly Government has greater powers, it should utilise them
to improve the experiences of asylum seekers and refugees coming to Wales.
• Work being undertaken by organisations like the Welsh Refugee Council is
dependent upon partnership working with other key stakeholders in Wales.
• Further action will be needed to promote this aspect of volunteering, including
sending the Conference Report to the Welsh Assembly Government.
7. Ways forward
Delegates‟ evaluations were very positive. After reviewing the feedback, the organisers
agreed that the event had acted as a catalyst – it was very successful in highlighting the
potential that refugee and asylum seeker volunteers have to offer, and in creating an
environment in which participating organisations could meet potential volunteers and
organisations which could collaborate with them. Above all, the number and diversity of
participating organisations and individuals highlighted that there is definite political will
and impetus supporting the aims of the conference.
General conclusions from the day:
• It was clear from the event that the desire to include refugees and asylum seekers
in mainstream organisations is strong, but organisations often do not have links
with refugee agencies, and may not know how to make contact with refugee
• The potential range of benefits to host communities and to refugees themselves,
in terms of integration, building employment skills, building bridges between
communities and disseminating positive images (for example) have not yet been
• Mainstream organisations and volunteer organisations should take a more active
role in encouraging volunteering by asylum seekers and refugees, working in
partnership with lead refugee agencies and Refugee Voice Wales.
• Refugee community organisations are a trusted source of information, advice and
services to many refugees and asylum seekers and as such, Refugee Voice Wales
as the umbrella body for RCOs in Wales have a central role to play in bridging
between individual volunteers and mainstream volunteering organisations.
The Welsh Consortium for Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Migrants, the Welsh Refugee
Council, Displaced People in Action and Refugee Voice Wales will work in partnership
with WCVA and other volunteer organisations to progress the agenda, including further
consideration of the following:
1. Organisations such as the police, Job Centre, local councils, Fire Service, NHS,
Inland Revenue and others should be encouraged to prioritise developing
relationships and infrastructures which support volunteering placements/work
experience for asylum seekers and refugees. Welsh Refugee Council and DPIA
could run information and cultural awareness and cross-cultural skills sessions for
the staff of these organisations.
2. Volunteer Fairs (like Job Fairs) could be organised in the four centres of dispersal
in Wales, led by Volunteer Centres and in partnership with local organisations
including those cited above (1.) Volunteer Centres (outreach teams) should work
to secure agreements with organisations on volunteer placements on the day if
they are able to do so, or to make arrangements to take forward in the near
3. There is a need for two information leaflets:
• Targeted at mainstream organisations and volunteer managers, explaining the
factual legal position and administrative framework relevant to volunteering by
asylum seekers and refugees (e.g. criminal record bureau checks). These leaflets
could be disseminated by volunteer centres. The leaflets will help counter the
stereotypes, myths and lack of knowledge that about the rights of asylum seekers
and refugees to volunteer amongst volunteer managers in mainstream
• Targeted at asylum seekers and which explain the Home Office regulations
about volunteering, and counters the perception amongst some asylum seekers
that they are not allowed to volunteer. The leaflet should include contact details
for relevant organisations. It could be included in „welcome packs‟.
Medium and long-term recommendations
4. Refugee community organisations and refugee agencies should build relationships
with mainstream organisations and raise awareness about the potential benefits
to both parties of working together to encourage asylum seekers and refugees to
volunteer. Volunteer centres should work with these organisations to ensure they
have an appropriate administrative and support infrastructure to work with
5. There is need to promote volunteering higher up the agenda of relevant national
strategies, particularly the Welsh Assembly Government Refugee Inclusion
Strategy. There is need to encourage more organisations to sign up for achieving
the quality standard for investing in volunteers and further information is
available at www.wcva.org.uk
6. Research is needed amongst a diverse range of refugees and asylum seeking
communities to ascertain attitudes to and perceptions about volunteering in the
UK, experiences of volunteering, barriers to them volunteering and making
recommendations about how they can be. Note that the Consultation Report on
the Voluntary Sector Action Plan recommends; „That the WAG initiates a
programme of research and evaluation to gain a better insight into public
perceptions of volunteering, the varied motivations behind voluntary action, the
opportunities for, and boundaries of, volunteering, and what people need to help
them volunteer and make the most useful contribution‟ (para 4.3).
7. Strategies which promote volunteering by refugees should develop innovative
methods of disseminating information to the most isolated of refugees and asylum
seekers (who may not be in contact with refugee community organisations). This
could be achieved by working in partnership with multi-agency networks and
developing cross-referral systems.
8. Establishing a Forum for volunteer co-ordinators so links could be made between
refugee support organisations and volunteer manager‟s networks in Wales, to
share information and good practice in supporting refugees to volunteer, as well
as exploring the potential for collaborative work.
9. Organisations operating volunteer schemes should be encouraged to issue
certificates to each volunteer, as many have no official record or recognition of
their participation in volunteer schemes. Certificates of achievement are useful
in terms of caves, job search etc, and they also send an important message that
volunteering is a valued and recognised activity.
10. Successful case studies of asylum seekers and refugees volunteering should be
highlighted through newsletters and other relevant media to promote positive
images and demonstrate refugee and asylum seeker role models.
11. Streamline procedures for obtaining CRB checks. Note that CRB procedures are
changing; a consultation is currently in process (see CRB website). The change
may make it more difficult to use „flexible recruitment styles‟ and therefore may
impact negatively on the ability of refugees and asylum seekers to obtain a CRB
Appendix 1 List of delegates
Note: This list does not include a number of people who booked in the few days leading
up to the event, and does not indicate the small number of people who booked but did
Name Surname Organisation
Eid Ali Ahmed Welsh Refugee Council
Shumaila Ali Citizens Advice Bureau
Dr Abdi Ali EMAS Cardiff
Congolese Community of
Antoine S Azangisa
Caroline Badman South Wales Police
Newport Sudanese Community
Welsh Council for Voluntary
Amanda Blackwell Voluntary Community Service
Janet Bochel Taff Housing Association
Welsh Refugee Voice,
Annie Cadman Newport CAB
Black Voluntary Sector
Maria Constanza Mesa
Voluntary Sector and Inclusion
Gareth Davies Keep Wales Tidy
The Valleys Race Equality
Ruth-Naomi Durham DPIA
Disabled Refugees Action in
Aled Edwards Displaced People in Action
Janet Edwards British Red Cross
Rachel Edwards Barnardos
Lucy Evans Advocacy Matters Wales
Inspector Daryl Fahey South Wales Police
Alazar Fissehay Araya Eritrean Community
Heather Fraser GAVO
Refugee Voice Wales,
Daljit Gill New Link Wales
Mo Green More Green Project
Jill Griffiths Whitchurch Hospital
Linda Harrington The Stroke Association
Barbara Harris The Stroke Association
Tony Harte SOVA
Paula Hemming The Parade ESOL Service
Children's Commissioner for
Sandra Holliday Cardiff Women's Aid
Welsh Consortium for
Anne Hubbard Refugees, Asylum Seekers &
Theresa Mgadzam Jones British Red Cross, Newport
Wrexham Drop-in Centre for
Asylum Seekers and Refugees
Salim Kapesa Refugee Council
Annette Kerr Taff Housing Association
Regionalverein 'Frauen fur
Refugee Voice Wales,
Wales Council for Voluntary
Julie Lloyd South Wales Police
Charlotte Longomo Whitchurch Hospital
Kuchi Makari ZDSA
Christian Masengo Hafod Housing Association
Katie McDonald Voluntary Community Service
Welsh Consortium for
Suzanne McKane Refugees, Asylum Seekers &
Richard McQuillan Hafod Housing Association
Toutou Monzeli WRC Equal Project
Farangis Nesaee British Red Cross, Newport
Pierrot Ngadi Refugee Voice Wales
Fatemeh Norowz Whitchurch Hospital
Association of S Wales
Peter Owen Welsh Assembly Government
N Wales Fire and Rescue
Chief Inspector Clive Perry South Wales Police
Hannah Preedy Discovery SVS
Laura Roberts St John Cymru - Wales
Amar Salih British Red Cross
Tarek Samad Welsh Refugee Council
Tarig Sanousi SOVA
Helena Santos BAWSO
Jeanette Scott Welsh Refugee Council
Sian Sexton Shelter Cymru
Adil Shashaty SOVA
Refugee Voice Wales,
Jayne Sims The Stroke Association
Minkesh Sood DPIA
Fire Service/Refugee Voice
Rachel Swygart Girlguiding UK
Liz Talbot British Red Cross, Swindon
Zara Tavasoli Whitchurch Hospital
Stewart Thomas British Red Cross
Peter Trevett Voluntary Community Service
Amele Tukandra GAVO
Marie Louise Wapungisa
Robert Wathan British Red Cross
Victoria White The Parade ESOL Service
Mark Widlake British Red Cross
Jan Williams EMAS Cardiff
Voluntary Sector and Inclusion
Unit Welsh Assembly
Ruth Wilson Tandem
Appendix 2 Organisers’ contact details
Jill Griffiths, Head of Voluntary Services, Mental Health
Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust
Whitchurch Hospital, Cardiff CF14 7XB
Minkesh Sood, Readiness for Work Officer
CSV House, Williams Way, Cardiff CF10 5DY
Victoria White, Development Worker
The Parade ESOL Service
The Parade Centre, 28 The Parade, Roath, Cardiff, CF24 3AB
029 20 495578
Pierrot Ngadi, Co-coordinator
Refugee Voice Wales
Welsh Refugee Council
389 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 1TP
Ruth Wilson, Director
21 Kingswood Avenue, Leeds, LS8 2DB
0113 266 9123
Katie McDonald, Outreach Worker
Amanda Blackwell, Volunteer Organiser
Voluntary Community Service
109 St Mary Street
02920 227 625
Fiona Liddell, Volunteer Development Officer
Wales Council for Voluntary Action
Baltic House, Mount Stuart Square, Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, CF10 5FH
Voluntary Sector and Inclusion Unit
Department for Social Justice and Regeneration
Welsh Assembly Government
Merthyr Tydfil Office, Rhydycar, Merthyr Tydfil, CF48 1UZ
Welsh Consortium for Refugees, Asylum Seekers & Migrants
C/o Newport City Council, Brynglas Bungalow, Brynglas Road, Newport NP20 5QU
Eid Ali Ahmed, Deputy Chief Executive
Tarek Samad, Volunteer Co-ordinator
Welsh Refugee Council
389 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 1TP