Watford and Three Rivers Refugee Project Volunteers evening

1st October 2012

After everyone had introduced themselves to each other, and then to the group: Joy introduced Irene Odei.

Irene spoke of her shock on coming to the UK and being unable to obtain the medicine that she knew suited her condition and being further hindered by having to register with a GP even before she could get a ‘prescription’. Despite the frustration she now sees the UK system as better than in Ghana where there is free access to medicine as long as you can pay for it.

In general, she appreciates the structures and social care that the NHS, education, social services, social security, law and order all afford UK citizens (and which of course those of us born in the UK can take for granted. We may complain but everyone can enjoy a degree of security and benefits within the society, unlike in Ghana.

She was astounded to realise when she first came here that there were such things as employment seekers allowance, child tax credits, sickness benefit etc.

As regards her work as an interpreter, she sees herself as the voice for her disadvantaged country people. Currently she works with social services, the Judicial services, and the NHS. Clients are more open when talking with someone who they can trust and with whom they feel secure. Her role is always to be neutral. Many Ghanaians are embarrassed to ask for an interpreter but without interpretation/language they can feel lonely, not understood, will stay indoors, not trust others and feel paranoid about the outside incomprehensible world.

Communication is a basic human right. We all need to share, to agree or disagree. Interpretation brings smiles on the face of people living in a foreign country!

Tim spoke of the way forward for the Project; charitable status, drop in sessions at St John’s church, a web site, improved data retrieval methods, and continuing our befriending roles. Questions were invited and those present enjoyed more savoury and cake nibbles.

The children were great, amusing themselves with toys and marbles. They missed the other children present at Cheslyn gardens!

A huge thanks you to Irene for such a professional presentation which struck a chord with many present who had moved countries to the UK.