A day in the life of a volunteer at the drop-in centre
We are lucky to have such a calm space available to us at St John’s Church on Sutton Road (our thanks always to Father David). The kettle goes on and the drop-in is officially open!
Tuesday and Thursday mornings (11am- 1pm) are a great opportunity to support clients with queries or concerns about the immigration process, and, if our friends from Pickup & Scott Solicitors are attending, to offer legal advice about accommodation, finance or other domestic difficulties.
Sometimes clients come for moral support, to talk through their experiences and plans in a spirit of trust and friendship. The drop-in centre can offer an important space in which our clients will truly be listened to.
When children come along with their parents we get the biscuits out! Having children at the drop-in centre always highlights to us the daily struggles for clients who have families, from infants through to older teenagers, and are finding ways to provide settled lives, happy school experiences and cultural integration.
We signpost our clients to a range of services. Perhaps they would like an appointment to see our partner solicitors if they’re not attending that day, or to be assigned a WTRRP befriender for ongoing support. We can also update their food box needs, tell them about our English language classes on Tuesdays, help them organise travel to appointments, help to fill in medical forms or put them in touch with other organisations such as social services or the Citizens Advice Bureau.
Referrals are important too; to the Stanborough Centre for household items and clothing or to the New Hope Trust or Red Cross for accommodation questions. These signposts can provide a lifeline.
Last month, a couple came to the drop-in centre with a letter from the NHS. They were worried; it was difficult to understand plus they had no resources to cover the costs being charged. During that morning at the drop-in we found that the charge referenced in the letter was a mistake, so a quick phone call to the surgery and a follow-up letter put our clients’ minds at rest.
Last week we heard from a client who has no recourse to public funds for herself and her children. Temporarily dependant on a family member living in the local area, she was keen to talk to us about how she can go about starting an independent life as quickly as possible.
We tidy up and lock the doors, thankful that we have an opportunity to work for the community twice a week. So many of our clients have suffered such unimaginable ordeals before we have even met them that we are struck by their stoic and determined outlook. They are driven to work hard and plan a new future for themselves and their families, and we are going to do anything we can to help them get there.
Nikki, Drop-in centre volunteer