September 12, 2022, by Rebekah
Global Placement Grant – Volunteering with Refugee Support EU in Cyprus
by Sihaam Ali, third year Politics and International Relations student
During August I went to Nicosia, Cyprus to volunteer with Refugee Support EU. During my time there I had a range of responsibilities including working in the market, registering new members, creating food cards, creating CVs, and standing at the door to greet people and send them to their designated area in the Centre. The market consisted of a mini-grocery store where members could come in and do their weekly grocery shop. This was one of my favourite roles during my time volunteering as you got to meet and speak to a lot of people and provide assistance if they required it. Another role I looked forward to was creating CV’S. Whilst I was slightly nervous about creating CVs as this is something I struggled with myself, it was a great experience sitting down with someone one-to-one to go through their life experiences and give them a document that would help them find a job in Nicosia.
I found this opportunity to volunteer through a friend of mine who was helping me research which charity I should volunteer with. The application process consisted of sending an email to schedule an interview time with one of the members of staff at Refugee Support EU. My interview was a great experience as I got to discuss my passion for working with refugees and using my privileged position to make a change.
What I enjoyed most about the experience was firstly the ability to help a vast group of people with what they needed. On Friday’s the Centre would transform with the barbering service. Seeing the smile on everyone’s face after getting a hair cut was something that I looked forward to as they would light up the room with their smiles. Secondly, I made amazing friends with the other volunteers. I was slightly nervous about solo-travelling to another country as a young female. However, when I got to the apartment all the volunteers were so welcoming. My first night there the rest of the team welcomed me by cooking a big Spanish dinner where we sat and talked for hours on the balcony for the rest of the evening.
Any time we had off at the Centre we would always do something whether it was going to another city or travelling to the Turkish side of Cyprus. This is something that I had read, the capital city being divided into the Greek side and the Turkish side. What was interesting was that to enter each area you would have to go through a border point and show your passport. Moreover, each side was very different with their different cultures and interestingly their use of Greek or Turkish flags propped up everywhere on each side.
One of the biggest challenges was saying no to people in need. As the Centre is small, we could only help people that had left the camp Pournana within a two-month period as that is when people are the most vulnerable and need support. Due to the size of the Centre, it would have been impossible to help everyone so when registering people and informing them of the way the Centre runs was very difficult. However, what made it better was that we would help people find alternatives whether it would be directing them to other charities such as Caritas or the Cyprus Refugee Council.
I would highly recommend volunteering with Refugee Support EU as it is a lovely small charity where everyone is highly supportive of each other and the work you do at the Centre is truly rewarding. I will never forget the amazing people I had met there, each with a different story to tell. It was difficult to say goodbye to the people I worked with and met every day at the Centre but hopefully I can return to work with everyone again.
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