Devon and Cornwall Refugee Support (DCRS) provide immigration support, advice, advocacy, education and wellbeing services within a welcoming space. Their aim is to promote independence, prevent destitution and encourage integration of asylum seekers and refugees into the local community. DCRS has a team of professional caseworkers who provide comprehensive immigration support including advice, advocacy and referrals to help asylum seekers and refugees access vital support services in the area. In addition, DCRS runs an activities programme, several community English classes and a health point drop-in service together with GPs and mental health professionals.
What is befriending and why is it important?
Befriending is a term referring to an organised and, initially, formal relationship set up between a volunteer and a person at risk of isolation. It is a recognised model of support, used with a variety of people including at-risk young people, people with disabilities, and the elderly.
At the heart of befriending is the aim to reduce isolation. Asylum seekers in the UK are not only at risk of isolation but are actively being isolated from society by the nature of their depending right to remain in the country. This forces them to exist in the margins, outside mainstream education, workforce, and everyday activities of a civil society. This process of isolating lasts long; seeking asylum in the UK is a laborious dehumanising process that can last for years.
At DCRS we believe that asylum seekers have the same rights for dignity and belonging as we all. Furthermore, we believe asylum seekers have a lot to offer; for individuals on a personal level as well as for our shared communities. We want to see asylum seekers and refugees being active members of our communities.
Is this role for you?
The role of a befriender involves being matched to an individual asylum seeker or refugee with the aim of the befriender supporting the person they are matched with in the following ways:
- A befriender will help to find and access services – but does not, usually, offer them. Thus, a knowledge of a wide range of local services and the ability to search for them is necessary.
- Introduce asylum seekers to new local communities, activities, and areas. Show an asylum seeker a (positive) way of life in/around Plymouth
- If appropriate and this is something both parties want, a befriender can accompany an asylum seeker to appointments, court hearings, interviews, visits to MP’s etc.
- Offering conversational English support
- Flagging any concerns and needs to DCRS staff
The relationship offers an opportunity for both sides to learn cultural norms and for the befriender to support their befriendee with practical tasks and tips, which more formal services often cannot help with. For the volunteer the scheme offers a unique, supported opportunity to learn and make a real difference. A befriender can, at its best, change the course of an asylum seeker’s life by being a calm accompanier in interviews and essential appointments.
Time commitment: 2 – 3 hours per week preferably during daytime
Essential skills and characteristics
- Ability to understand the asylum process and its effects (training will be offered) and to empathise with people
- Willingness to attend training sessions on boundaries, safeguarding, communication and the asylum system.
- Ability to organise reliable visiting arrangements, set personal boundaries and accept limitations of the role.
- Ability to offer practical support in an empowering way
- Willingness to keep contact records and keep the project manager aware of any concerns and developments regarding the person they are matched with.
- To work in line with DCRS’s boundaries-, confidentiality-, and safeguarding policies.
- Ability to recognise personal distress and seek support from the project manager when appropriate.
- Good English communication skills. Additional languages are an advantage but not essential
- Able to attend monthly befriender meetings for the first 6 months within this roleand to report back to the project manager.
What’s in it for you?
- To be part of an organisation committed to supporting the needs of asylum seekers and refugees.
- To make a meaningful difference in the life of an asylum seeker or refugee and support them to integrate within a new community
- To be part of a passionate and driven volunteer cohort and meet like-minded individuals
- Receive training in areas such as the asylum process, safeguarding and project boundaries, provided in-house
- Regular meetings with other volunteer befrienders and project manager where any issues and concerns can be discussed in a supportive environment
- To meet new interesting people and enjoy an organised model of friendship with clear boundaries
Contact Volunteer@dcrs-plymouth.org if you are interested in volunteering.
To apply for this job email your details to Volunteer@dcrs-plymouth.org.