Breaking down the barriers to a new life:
Judy Bell, a retired teacher – and now RMC English and Maths class tutor – on the impact that volunteering at the charity has had on her life since joining.
“I feel humbled by the strength and courage of those who have been forced to leave everything, and who arrive in an unknown land with a different language and with a strange culture. It has made me more thoughtful and grateful for my own settled background.”
Inspired to support those escaping conflicts and persecutions from around the world, her friend Said persuaded Judy that she could use her background in education to benefit those seeking sanctuary in the UK. She said: “The news was full about those making treacherous journeys, like the children, women and men crossing the Mediterranean in small, overcrowded and flimsy boats. Some were fortunate to make it to land, while others drowned.
“It seemed inconceivable that this was happening, and I wanted to do something to help, but didn’t know how. My friend Said was volunteering at the RMC office in Wolverhampton at the time and suggested it would be a good thing to do.”
One year later and for two hours a week every Tuesday afternoon, Judy joins Said to run a class in basic literacy and numeracy for people seeking safety in the UK, but who do not yet have access to college or adult education classes. They are assisted by Samah who started as a student in their class, and now supports new learners develop their English. It is vital work that for many students provides the first step in building a new life.
“Without English, our students can’t communicate properly or access their rights. It also hinders people from being able to go about their daily lives, to be able to form friendships or effectively participate within their community. Learning the language is one of the first big barriers that our students need to overcome so that they achieve their goals and rebuild their lives.”
Despite the crucial nature of the work that Judy, Said and Samah willingly provide for free, it has not been without its funny moments:
“Two incidents stick in my mind. The first was trying to explain to nine students from eight different countries and cultural backgrounds, the difference between ‘a lovely child’ and ‘a love child’! And, to the same class, trying to explain the difference between ‘pie’, ‘pea’ and ‘pee’!”
So what would Judy say to anyone considering volunteering at RMC?
“The sheer joy of meeting so many people from so many different backgrounds is a real privilege and enriches your life. Go for it!”
For a volunteer application pack, please email RMC’s Volunteers Manager Craig Hands at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers’ Week (1st – 7th June) is a nationwide opportunity to say thank you for the fantastic contribution volunteers make. Throughout this week, the Refugee and Migrant Centre (Black Country and Birmingham) (RMC), will be bringing our supporters a story each day, highlighting the diverse and invaluable contributions these people make. To find out more about how we’re celebrating, follow our Twitter or Facebook.