A new landscape

Our participants have been greatly affected by the lockdown. Many of them had no support networks, family or friends to support them. Many were digitally excluded and excluded because of language barriers from other provisions. This contributed to them needing more support from our services during lockdown and out of lockdown. 

We urgently spoke to 38 of our participants and moved to working remotely to support their needs. Their feedback and input helped shape the provisions we went on to make. We coordinated online systems and telephone calls, so that we could respond as quickly possible. We knew the importance of continuing to work closely with partners (Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum, Hope Nottingham, Host, Belong, The Vine Community Centre, and more) to ensure the best outcomes. We focused on participants facing hardship, poverty and those struggling in isolation with their wellbeing.

Our Telephone Befriending service supported the ongoing needs of vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees to ensure that their health and wellbeing was maintained. We have started to phase befriending to the next stage which enables small groups to meet in a local community garden. We have also been able to facilitate one to one befriending in person in outdoor spaces as well.

Many asylum seekers and refugees were digitally excluded through lack of access to smartphones and consistent wifi. For this reason we ensured we had a multi faceted approach by having both Telephone and Online provisions so that nobody would be excluded. We also used the postal service for posting packages of Art and English Language materials and other resources. This slowed down the process of various support work issues but was the only way that someone who had no internet access could receive support. An example that comes to mind would be where referral forms needed completed or signed by participants. Things may have taken longer than usual but we were able to support people when they needed help. 

We have learnt the need to have more staff and volunteers than before. Working remotely and delayed responses has meant that to enable the same amount of work to be done we need more capacity and time to plan and deliver much needed support. We have also learned to think outside of the box and find creative solutions to new problems. We have also learned there is an increased cost for covering volunteering expenses, postage and stationary and telephone costs as more work relied on using such resources. 

Our participants have taught us resilience and gratitude in the face of hardship as they have communicated their thanks and appreciation, shared their struggles and kept going. In particular we were surprised and impressed by the “give it a go” approach and the willingness of our participants to try things like Telephone Befriending and to receive support remotely as these were untested and untried methods for all of us. Their willingness and that of our volunteers made it easier for us to try knowing that we could fail or it might not work. 

For some people the new ways of working didn’t connect or work for them and for some volunteers it was too difficult because of language barriers and other factors too. We valued each person's opinion and feedback, respecting their decisions and considering their wishes. The most important thing for us was to allow volunteers and participants the choice over how they would engage. 

From recent surveys sent to participants, of those that replied 19/22 feel able to talk to Refugee Roots and 16/22 feel better in themselves about their wellbeing.

I was feeling quite isolated…the hardest thing was being on my own. It’s been brilliant the help and support I have received from Refugee Roots and their volunteers, it’s been tremendous.Refugee Roots helped me practically, with my wellbeing and my confidence

Mohammad

Volunteer with us