Tell us about the time you were volunteering with Connection Support. What was your role and how long were you volunteering with us?
I started as a volunteer on 1st January 2017 as an Arabic interpreter, supporting the refugee resettlement service in Oxfordshire. I was usually shadowing a support worker, and I attended appointments to ensure families using our service could communicate in meetings and understand what was being said.
I also supported the families using my own experience to help them understand UK culture and to navigate systems that were new to them. For example, I made sure families were told about the importance of queueing in the UK as this is very different where I come from in Syria! Another example is how when you get on a bus and there is one person sitting on a double seat, it’s considered polite to sit elsewhere and give that person space rather than sit next to them. I also encouraged parents to make sure their children keep up their native language as well as learning English as this can be an advantage for career development later on.
What made you decide to volunteer with us?
When I arrived in the UK I could speak a little English but I knew I needed to improve. I wanted to volunteer in the local community to achieve this. I was invited to help with some translation for Connection Support which I did on a voluntary basis until 2022.
Back in Syria I was also volunteering for SOS orphans support and I was working for Ford motor company.
When the war started there, my mother and I moved to Jordan to get away from the fighting. To have the right to stay you either have to be an investor or register as a refugee, so that’s when we officially became refugees.
It was a difficult time in Jordan as my mother was in poor health, and I myself needed treatment for breast cancer which was very expensive as we didn’t have access to healthcare in that country.
We applied to come to the UK and within four months we were resettled, we were prioritized because of our health situation.
I had visited the UK before as my sister is here, but coming here to live was very different as I had to learn and understand a whole new country system, culture and public services. It was great to have the help of Connection Support who made this so much easier for me.
I am the type of person who wants to help, I am here to add value to the community which is why I felt motivated to volunteer.
Tell us about your move to the staff team at Connection Support. What motivated you to apply and what is your role like now?
I have been with Connection Support for 8 years, first as a client, then a volunteer and now a member of staff supporting Afghan families. I feel like this is my family, and I feel appreciation for what I am able to do.
I’m really pleased that I have now gained British citizenship.
What advice would you give someone else who was thinking about volunteering with Connection Support?
There are many benefits to volunteering, you’ll make friends, gain skills and be recognized in your community. Volunteering also helps people gain paid work, if you don’t have any references it’s difficult to apply for jobs, and volunteering can help you get references.