What I did
My placement with the BME Invest project is over now but while I was there, I was able to act as a translator for the Refugee Resettlement project with Farzana and the Asylum Support project with Sophie. I worked with people who couldn't speak English to help them with lots of things like applying for universal credit and other things they needed. I also translated posters and information about Covid to help people stay safe and have access to the correct information. My work involved handling sensitive information; for example, when helping people access food banks. I contacted the mosques to reach as many people as possible as some wouldn't receive help if English was the only language used for information.
Skills I developed
My communication skills on the phone were really tested and developed during my placement. Being able to stay calm whilst speaking to difficult clients gave me a sense of control about what I was feeling myself: an angry reaction from the caller was often about their situation, not about me. Writing the weekly report and timesheet with the help of my Project Officer developed my computer skills. All of this was a huge confidence booster. I now have skills I can apply and use anywhere. These skills are invaluable to me
What EYST did for me
EYST gave me the skills and the confidence to really work and go out there. They helped me trust myself to get on with the job. With what I learned I feel as though I can go for another job. It is a great first step to take for work. It made me able to use my language and translate to help those in need and speaking English to colleagues and other professionals has given me confidence in my spoken English.
I work as front of house staff: my main role is to help distressed callers. They call in about all sorts of things, homelessness, food parcels, food poverty, settlement visas universal credit and more. I also do language translation because a lot of the callers cannot speak English. After Christmas I took calls from women going through domestic abuse problems and needing rehousing. It was my job to connect them to the right people so they get what they need. This is the same for food parcels - I book them in for a specific day and make sure they get what they need
What it's like
As you often have distressed callers on the line, you don't know what to expect sometimes. It can be really challenging as it's happening right now. I usually call the team lead and give him the details when I am out of my depth: Team VARS is really supportive. Depending on their situation I signpost the caller to the appropriate team member or project.
The team supports me and I love them! When it comes to my computer skills when I started they were not the best. Working out things like the Excel sheets and weekly reports was hard at first but with the support of the team I'm now able to understand how to use all of these software packages and I have really developed my computer literacy. My confidence and self-esteem have grown and continue to grow with each new opportunity.
My placement so far
I've just started my placement and I'm thankful for all the amazing support the team gives.
I've started taking calls and some of the callers are distressed with really difficult issues in their lives. I have received training so although I want to help all of them, sometimes I'm unable to and need to signpost them to different team members, projects, organisations etc. Due to Covid I work from home as our office is closed. I do find that clients turn up to the office and ring me believing the office is open or that I'm there.
What I'm learning
I am really developing my team-work skills as Team VARS (Volunteers, Asylum and Refugee Support) truly are the dream team! I am learning so much about being a team player and the importance of having a team to support you, advise you and appreciate you.
I have become much more resilient and have more emotional control with the callers because I have the tendency to want to help every single caller. Over time I'm hoping to build skills in communicating with callers who don't speak English. Translation apps are amazing though - a real lifeline!
I have already done Safeguarding training with EYST and that's taught me how to look after vulnerable clients virtually. Despite the current pandemic I can still use these skills and develop my communication skills further.
My IT skills have improved as a side effect of filling in timesheets and weekly reports. Also my confidence when picking up calls has been building up with each call I take.