Befrienders for newly arrived refugee families
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SummaryShare your local knowledge to help refugee families settle and lead independent lives in Norfolk (Thetford, Watton & Diss).
The team of volunteers plays a key role in supporting the refugee families. We do this by helping families to learn English, familiarising them with Norwich and Norfolk, and helping to engage them with the wider community. With the team’s and your support, they are able to rebuild their lives in Norwich.
An Outline of Our Volunteer Roles
Befrienders make up the majority of our volunteer team. Befrienders are assigned to a family or an individual, and focus on helping them to become more self-reliant in the UK. The befriender’s role is the most diverse one, and can involve a wide variety of tasks such as helping families get to grips with their post (often bills or other formal requests for information); helping them navigate their way around the city; and getting to appointments using public transport. We find that refugee families who have a regular befriender pick up English more quickly due to frequent, purposeful conversation. This normally requires a commitment of two or three hours, once a week or once a fortnight, for at least a year. Each family also has a Development Worker or Social Worker from PfAT, who works with the family following their support plan.
Ad Hoc volunteering
From time to time the team will need extra hands with one off tasks such as the preparation of houses for new clients. The team has dedicated members who furnish the housing using donations, but every now and then we call on our volunteer team to make final touches by freshening them up with a last minute clean and tidying the gardens. Additionally, if a client needs to attend an appointment and a member of the team is unavailable to assist, we ask for a volunteer to accompany them in using public transport.
English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Volunteer
Being able to read and write English is central to a family successfully building a new life here, as this will be essential for employment opportunities and generally engaging with the wider community. For this reason, all of the refugee adults who come to Norwich have to attend English language lessons. The tutoring is provided by specialist teachers in English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). ESOL volunteers don’t need to have a background in teaching or ESOL. Volunteers are guided by the teaching staff to assist in classes to help out with reading, writing and speaking English. Being sensitive to each adult's different abilities and finding new ways to explain things in a positive, fun and encouraging way is just as important as being able to conjugate a verb.
One-to-one help with English
If you are keen to support refugees with their English in a less formal situation, we can pair you up with someone who wants extra help with their classroom-based learning, or who, for one reason or another, does not attend classes. You will meet regularly either in their home or a local library. You do not need formal qualifications, just a determination to communicate!
For young children below school age we provide a crèche which runs alongside the English lessons, so that childcare is not a barrier to attendance. Leading the crèche is a pre-school education professional and a teaching assistant. The children who come to the crèche love to play, interact, have a snack, and play some more! Additionally the crèche plays an invaluable role in preparing the children for school, by developing the foundational language skills they will need to succeed. The volunteers here have a hugely important role in supporting the crèche manager to provide educational activities.
How We Support Volunteers
We really appreciate the contribution our volunteers make which ensures the success of the resettlement scheme. In return for your time and commitment, we provide ongoing support to volunteers including the following:
Each month, you will receive an e-newsletter which has updates from Simon and the team about the project. It also covers any new developments, news on events, as well as additional volunteering opportunities or one-off requests for help.
We also hold monthly volunteer forums. This is an opportunity to get together and talk about upcoming events and to network with other volunteers doing similar things.
There is a Volunteer Hub which provides a digital online platform for volunteers to connect with the team, share resources and get the latest news. The Hub also hosts our Contact Form, an essential part of our volunteer programme. We ask volunteers to complete and submit this form after visits so that Development and Social Workers can respond to any issues – usually though, it is simply a matter of letting the team know what has been achieved, and what you are planning to do next.
Thank you for reading this information – we look forward to meeting you.