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5 ways to volunteer with refugees in the UK

Organisations supporting refugees need volunteers as well as donations to do their jobs. Here’s how to contribute your time to displaced people in your area

The UK is set to welcome 5,000 refugees from Afghanistan in the next year, followed by another 15,000 people longer term. It means expert organisations will be even more in need of people to volunteer with refugees.

There is already a population of around 132,000 refugees and 77,000 asylum seekers in the UK, according to the UN Refugee Agency, and they face significant obstacles as they try to build better, safer lives here.

Many asylum seekers are pushed into destitution by the no recourse to public funds policy, which locks them out of most benefits and other kinds of state support, and many refugees struggle to find a secure home.

Cash donations are hugely valuable to the UK’s refugee charities, but the time and effort contributed by volunteers across the country makes their vital work possible. Here’s how you can get involved if you want to support displaced people through volunteering.

Find out what’s happening in your area

Britain’s devolved governments offer online tools to track down the most effective way for you to help refugees living locally to you, whether it be through donating time, providing goods or fostering.

If you live in England or Wales, visit this resource to find information specific to your area and what you have to offer, while you can click here to find where you can provide help in Scotland. 

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Specialist volunteering centres can also direct you to organisations in need of your time. Find your local centre here if you live in England, here if you live in Scotland, here for those in Wales and here if you live in Northern Ireland. 

British Red Cross

There are several different ways to volunteer in aid of refugees, and with organisations such as the British Red Cross, it can be as simple as spending some time volunteering in your local charity shop. But they also welcome ambulance volunteers and people who will work directly with refugees.

More information on the charity’s volunteering programme can be found here while the latest volunteering opportunities near you are updated here.

Refuweegee

This Glasgow-based charity has been wrapping its arms around newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers since 2015. With a particular focus on ensuring displaced people know they are welcome in their new home, Refuweegee asks people to write a kind “letter fae a local” to be placed in an individual support pack.

Those packs contain essentials such as shampoo, nappies and non-perishable food for people arriving in Glasgow, and the charity needs volunteers to shop for and deliver these products. More information on its volunteering opportunities can be found here.

Refugee Action

Refugee Action has been campaigning for a fairer immigration system and helping people rebuild their lives in the UK for 35 years.

Volunteers are integral to the operation and the charity is always on the look out for people to donate their time – whether it be to ensure displaced people are welcomed into their new communities or to help out around the office – and keep the work going smoothly. More information on time commitments, background checks and training can be found here.

Breaking Barriers

Breaking Barriers works with refugees in London to help them find secure employment.

The charity focuses on making sure people new to the UK do not become underemployed, meaning their work does not match their skill set, and that their jobs align with their aspirations.

Their door is always open for advice and guidance volunteers for  one-to-one appointments with refugees and operations volunteers to assist with behind-the-scenes tasks. The organisation also looks for English volunteers to support the work-related language skills of refugees who do not speak English as their first language. Volunteers can act as teachers, teaching assistants or on curriculum development. Find out more here.

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