A bit ago I signed up to an organisation that seeks out and ‘ employs ‘ volunteers as Befrienders. … I’m going to be deliberately vague about details because the people it needs volunteers for are to befriend/ help asylum seeking refugees to this country.
People who seek asylum here are only successful if repatriation to their home country would mean persecution for them… as far as I understand it, anyway.
I was approved as a Befriender after an online interview, and various form filling in, followed by a chaperoned video call with the proposed refugee. I actually used my status as a Spazzer to jump the queue – well in this day and age all organisations need to prove themselves ‘ inclusive’ before anything else… ( bonkers I know, but true ). I therefore went straight to the top of the list for my own refugee.. and one was offered straight away… I know this sounds contrary but there are actually too many volunteer Befrienders and not enough refugees ( that the organisation deems suitable ). Of course it’s a fact that there are a lot of asylum seekers that are here very much NOT because they are persecuted at home, but rather that they are just trying to take advantage of the UK’s ‘ humanitarian treatment ‘ when it comes to immigrants… so the organisation weeds out those that it thinks are unlikely to be here for the right reasons.
Refugees here are put up in accommodation, and fed… until they go through the process… after which they are either approved or they are sent back to their countries. Whilst in this limbo situation they aren’t allowed to work ( in a paid sense ). I met my Friend today, face to face for the first time. The Org suggests that my role is to spend 2/3 hours a fortnight with the Ref, during which time I do my bit to make him/ her feel less alienated in British society. They suggest a coffee and perhaps some sort of ( free ) activity.
Well anyway… I have enough coffees.. and if I am going to try to make someone’s week then I can do better than that.
The ONLY advantage to being disabled is that generally when I pay to go into some venue, I am entitled to have an able bodied person come with me for free ( as my help )… so that means I actually don’t have to pay anything to get my Ref into venues.
So today, I asked my fella to meet me at London Bridge tube station at 4.30, which he did, we went for a coffee.. and then as a pretty cool first outing we went to the top of The Shard ( it’s called The View )
I have to say that my Friend didn’t stop smiling and giggling for 3 hours. When you are given EIGHT POUNDS A WEEK for all your ‘ entertainment’ then you obviously can’t afford to do very much… so today’s experience was way out the league of what he would be able to do himself. We talked and smiled throughout. He was a charming and friendly man, who in his own country was a Professor… and who was then jailed for speaking out against the dictator that had seized control of his country. After a year and a half in prison, he was temporarily let out to be admitted to hospital, and then managed to escape when his electronic tag was removed for him to have surgery.
Now here for the last 6 months, he works as a volunteer in charity shops, and awaits a decision by the UK authorities on his future. As a professor he was actually allowed to enter the UK officially, so he will almost definitely be granted Right to Stay, after which his wife and 3 sons can possibly join him here.
I can’t post pictures or details because he’s a wanted man .. and if he goes back he’ll be immediately jailed.
It gives me an enormous sense of well-being to do this to be honest. Perhaps it’s even better for me than it is for him?! Who knows.., but what I can say is that I do sense that it’s the start of a Beautiful Friendship.