A week with Refugee Roots

Hi! My name is Jess and I’m a sixth form student in Nottingham. As work experience ahead of university next year, I've been lucky enough to work with Refugee Roots this week. They do incredible work with refugees across Nottingham, supporting those needing help to adapt to life in the UK. Particularly at the current time with the Ukrainian crisis, donations play such a vital role in providing these services and giving people like me the opportunity to engage with their work. As part of my fundraising campaign to give back to Refugee Roots following the work experience week, we have launched this fundraising page to try and generate as many donations as possible. This experience has opened my eyes to the depth and breadth of support the charity provides, and so I felt it fitting to detail the week I’ve spent with them:

A week with Refugee Roots:

Monday

Presentation for NCS

NCS (National Citizen Service) is a development programme for 15-17 year olds during a week of their summer, during which groups of participants work on a project to better their local community; for this year's Nottingham group this to design social movement. As part of this, Refugee Roots delivered a talk about their work within Nottingham and the impact it has on local refugees. This included information on the current global and local immigration climate at a level the kids could understand, and it was very obvious the groups started to connect with the information when they could relate it to their own lives- with things like weekly refugee allowances compared to their pocket money. We then spoke about the work the charity does to support Refugees in all aspects of the transition to life in England. This education is aimed to increase awareness and tolerance of immigrants in Nottingham, as well as make pathways to volunteering and donating known.

Tuesday

Women's group (am)

From what I gather from volunteers, the Women's group is one of the most influential parts of Refugee Roots direct support because of the social structure it offers refugees. In the hour and a half session it became very evident to me that this did not feel like a mandated help session, rather it was  morning coffee with friends and a side of learning grammar. The women who came genuinely enjoyed chatting to each other and knew each other's situations intimately. It also offered those needing a bit of assistance with new issues to speak to female support staff in a private and comfortable way.

Art session (pm)

The charity runs two weekly art sessions offering two different groups the opportunity to better their art skills, but more importantly providing a calm, friendly, therapeutic environment for people to come and enjoy an afternoon. The children were kept occupied by their projects, giving mothers a well earned break and a chance to talk at length with each other and myself; this was where I really started to get to know individuals' stories and their current situations as there was no pressure or ending task. The art courses are divided into six week blocks in which a new skill is taught weekly, but some choose to work on one project such as clay modeling for the entire course. 

Wednesday

English class (am) and Art session (pm)

Throughout the week sessions were held in multiple locations, from the Tiger Cafe below the office, to the City Arts center, to Windmill Community gardens. Wednesdays English and art class were held in a room surrounded by gardens upkept by volunteers. Refugees have the opportunity to volunteer here, and children accompanying parents to classes could water plants if they wanted. In the heat, the garden was a lovely place to learn together. Different participants than previous came to these sessions and once again we were able to learn a lot about the lives individuals left behind through practicing verbal english. The levels of English varied, as was expected based on how long people had been in the UK. This ranged from 1 week to 4 years, yet everyone was able to interact with each other and we held interesting conversations.

Friday

The final English class (with, again, a different group) took place Friday morning. Here, it really hit me just how many people are helped by the charity on a daily basis. Each class I had attended had been run by a different teacher, teaching 15 different people. The charity itself is a team of 5 and is only able to provide so much assistance thanks to the 100 volunteers who give up their time, and the donations of the public. 

Further than just running social opportunities, the team work tirelessly trying to better refugees' quality of life through everything from contacting places to get furniture, pushchairs and clothing, to advice and guidance on the legal side of things, to helping create CVs and writing references. The ‘Befriender’ service is a further level of support the charity provides by pairing a volunteer and a refugee for 1:1 support, be that assisting with trips to doctors/hospitals or a normal chat over coffee, something many may not have done for years.

I don’t feel I can fully convey the importance of the work I have seen this week, but I hope the fundraising campaign we have launched following it allows this support to continue growing and reach many more in need.

Jessica Wells