Refugee Week 2022 – Anne’s Volunteering Story
Anne is currently seeking asylum and therefore not allowed to work. She has filled her time volunteering for a wide variety of organisations in order to keep busy and help overcome mental health issues.
“Keeping myself busy and having structure in my week have been my priorities. I volunteer in many organisations – one is Emmaus, I work at the charity shop. Another is Chest, Heart & Stroke Scotland as well. Also with Positive Action in Housing as a volunteer casework assistant, Scottish Refugee Council in the Peer Integration Project and with the Marie Trust who I’m also doing courses with. They are opening up a restaurant and I will be doing customer service. I’m also starting a third charity shop soon
Anne found that due to being unable to work, she was also losing a lot of the skills she had built over the years. Volunteering has been a way for her to practice these and gain in a number of ways.
“From my experiences in the past, I have so many sets of skills in different areas. I was losing the skills as I can’t work… If I don’t practice, I’ll lose it. Volunteering keeps my skills and lets me learn new skills, try new things, meet new people. Also to help others who have been in my situation… particularly in Peer Integration. I can support a lot because I’ve also been through having a lack of information and support. I love to help someone else not go through this. I came from Africa where things are different, so it’s been very important.”
As well as being able to practice her skills, Anne has felt that her volunteering has benefited her in so many ways and allows her to do activities which she enjoys which has helped improve her mental health hugely.
“It’s great doing things I love! I love organising, putting things in order, being around people and talking to them, sharing information and learning from each other. Helping as well! If i removed helping from my life, I would lose the essence of my existence.”
“I came from a place where I was a CEO of an NGO that was really big. I was also running a real estate company that was doing well. I’ve always been busy and interacting with people. Now seeking asylum, my career life has shut down, family has been cut because they are back home – not having anything to do or a structure, I lose everything. Volunteering gives me back something to look forward to. A structure. You start living life.”
Anne’s extensive time volunteering has allowed her to build a lot of insight. When asked what advice she would give to someone looking to begin their own volunteering journey, she gave an inspiring and thoughtful perspective.
“Look within yourself and look at what you want to achieve in life and what you need. I have a philosophy; if I want something, I give it. If I want a job, I will give my skills. If I want to learn a skill, I give a skill I have. I get connections, and it’s like a connecting dot in very many ways. When you start volunteering you realise what you give all comes back to you and more.”