by Enez, volunteer for Women for Refugee Women

I started volunteering with Women for Refugee Women in January 2020. I was in my final year of my undergraduate degree in Social Sciences and feeling exasperated with the discourse surrounding immigration, race and sexism. Instead of languishing in my hopelessness, I decided I wanted to become involved in a community that was actively celebrating the work that refugee women are doing to change narratives and campaign for better rights. That’s when I started helping facilitate the ‘mothers and toddlers’ group. Every Monday morning for an hour or so we would sing, dance and play with the mothers and children who enthusiastically joined in to the endless repetitions of ‘The Wheels on the Bus’. But then March came around and everything changed. As we transitioned to on-the-phone support, it was hard to imagine that the hugs, laughs and dancing we shared were only weeks in the past. But still, over the phone I got to know many women in the network that I had never previously met. We still laugh and talk – without seeing each other’s smiles – and speak fondly of the day we will be able to meet and hug again.

Volunteering with Women for Refugee Women has been an important part of my life for the past year and a half. At moments where I felt more disconnected from my communities than ever before, I still had a network of women that I never lost touch with. I have also come to know my fellow volunteers better from my computer screen. Meeting weekly, then fortnightly, on zoom for the past year; I look forward to hearing about their lives and working together to try and help someone in the network. We have also had important conversations about positionality, boundaries and our role as volunteers. These are ongoing concerns which were further brought to light by the pandemic, as well as conversations about race and lived experience. They are not always easy conversations to have, but they are certainly important ones which have been incredibly impactful on the way we provide support as volunteers.

I hope that the sense of community which has been absolutely vital over the past year won’t disappear. I know that Women for Refugee Women has been, and will continue to, empower and foster its growing community. But, I have also seen the critical role of the mutual aid groups and food banks which popped up to support those worst affected by the pandemic. I hope that lending a hand continues being an important part of everyone’s lives and that we continue to build communities of care.

This week is Volunteers’ Week! At Women for Refugee Women we are so grateful to our talented volunteers who share their time and skills with us each week, helping us to welcome and support our London network of over 350 refugee and asylum-seeking women. Each day this week we will be sharing one of our wonderful volunteer’s reflections, read the rest of this series here.