I started my placement at EYST in February 2021 with the BME Youth Invest Project. My role requires me to shadow different teams in EYST. My first experience involved shadowing Team VARS (Volunteer, Asylum, Refugee and Support).
During the first week, I gained an insight into the work of Team VARS by attending a training delivered by Aliya, Sophie, and Thanuja. From their personal experiences, I learnt that Asylum Seekers go through harsh life experiences, which can continue even if refugee status is granted. I became aware of the range of services Team VARS provides from helping clients with food vouchers, access to interpreters, internet services by providing dongles and laptops and support with jobs by helping with applications. Google translate is often encouraged to understand conversations and clients can be helped with their legal paperwork relating to their immigration status and securing their refugee status in the UK by contacting the Home Office and Migrant Help to track their application.
I witnessed how Team VARS went out of their way to respond positively to phone calls from clients, alongside managing other tasks relating to their caseload. I was also able to see the outstanding complex and challenging work completed daily. For example Sophie liaised with housing managers repeatedly to ensure the accommodation being offered to an asylum-seeking family was appropriate and fit for habitation.
I accompanied Sophie to a Coalition Meeting where I learnt about the importance of challenging the stereotypes associated with asylum seekers and refugees. As an example, one of the shocking statistics mentioned during the meeting was that there are only 950 refugees residing in Swansea, despite the city having a population of over 200,000 people. The goal of the Coalition is to combat the discriminatory stereotypes that target this category of the population. During the meeting concerns were highlighted regarding poor living conditions, the struggle to secure employment and insufficient money for food and travel.
It is remarkable to see the number of clients Team VARS are helping and supporting on a day-to-day basis. As a team they do their utmost to ensure clients have access to their basic human rights. From shadowing Team VARS, I now understand their work is of paramount importance because of the pertinent issues facing our society at present at an economic, social, and political level. The way that this team works cohesively and the obvious team spirit and the admirable bond between the team members is what makes Team VARS a success.