Just a number of stories from some of our volunteers about how and why they volunteer for Hull Help for Refugees. If you would like to join us please do get in touch.
I used to attend Hull Help for Refugees charity concerts and rummage sales, sing carols in the town square with them at Christmas, and since the first lockdown have participated in the fortnightly Zoom quiz (which is a lot of fun). Then I saw a call out on the message group for help sorting and distributing donated clothes and shoes to the city’s asylum seekers, and it seemed to be the invitation I needed to become more involved. Each week we set out our stalls of clothes neatly folded and arranged in order of size. We offer assistance to our clients seeking just the right t-shirt, or some well-fitting jeans or footwear. If they leave the building happy with their new outfit then I feel happy in that moment too.
A few years ago two of my sons were hitchhiking in Australia, and a woman picked them up and took them home with her, fed them and gave them a bed for the night. She contacted me on a messaging platform to tell me how much she’d enjoyed their company and said what a credit they were to me. I wish I could contact the mothers of some of the young men I’ve met during these afternoons, and tell them the same thing. I only wish that their sons had been travelling here for the joy of it, and would soon be returning safely home, like mine did. Instead, I offer their sons a smile and a kind word, along with some of the essential items they need that might make their experience here a tiny bit better. It’s all we can do.
I’m Chris and I’ve been volunteering with HHfR since August 2020. For a long time I have been been sympathetic to the struggles of refugees and displaced people, but was motivated to become more active following a local backlash against refugees being housed in a central Hull hotel. I found myself getting increasingly angry about the negativity towards these people, and was tired of having the same discussions about ‘benefit scroungers’, ‘looking after our own’, ‘sending them back’ etc.
HHfR had a strong Facebook presence, so I contacted them to see if I could help in any way. Everyone involved in the organisation is passionate about the work, and I was welcomed in by the incredible group of people who make up the charity. We offer help to people locally, nationally, and internationally by providing clothing, essential items, and financial assistance. As a small charity we are able to target specific areas that need help very quickly. There isn’t a huge mire of bureaucracy to get through first.
As well as the work we do for refugees, I was delighted to find that we also help deprived and homeless people in the local area, and have contact with other local charities. There’s a network of really amazing people in Hull. What I do is insignificant compared to the scale of the issues we are tackling, but it is my hope that my small contribution is helping to change lives for the better.
From my own personal perspective, I will describe the work I have done since it became apparent that we could not continue working towards sending items to Greece due to covid and also the unknown factors around Brexit. This also coincided with the inception of Welcome House and through this, the identification of families living in the city, who needed support.
The work I have done has been the following:
Being part of the team that collects donations (both at The Avenues and from people’s houses), sorting them into various sections such as for the men in the hotel, for families in the city, for selling either on line or at future car boots etc., for cash for clothes and for other Charites and vulnerable people in Hull.
Delivering items to individuals in the city who have bought goods from us on line.
Taking the relevant donations to their destinations such as cash for clothes, families that require items that we can supply and being part of the team that moved many of our men’s clothes to Unison so that they were more accessible to the people in the hotel. I am now identifying these types of clothing on an ongoing basis and ensuring they are taken to Unison.
Being part of the team who work with Welcome House in Unison to identify the clothes that are required for the people in the hotel.
Working with my colleagues in our team who are supporting individual families for Welcome House and helping them to identify items that are required.
I have to say that doing this work with HHfR has been so helpful to me during this pandemic. I really value the time I spend with others on the team and our visiting refugees who I hope we have manged to help in some way.
The first volunteering I did with Hull Help for Refugees was washing sleeping bags that had been salvaged from Leeds Festival. I saw a Facebook post asking for help and decided to do something rather than just think how sad and unfair it was that people were living in such terrible conditions. Since then, I’ve been involved with many Hull Help for Refugee activities. It’s given me a way to give practical support and show solidarity with people who are facing challenges that I am fortunate never to have experienced. If ever, I or someone close to me was in a similar situation, I would hope someone would reach out to help and it just happens that at the moment I’m in a position to help.
One of the things I really like about volunteering with Hull Help for Refugees is the camaraderie between volunteers and the acknowledgement that each volunteer’s contribution is valuable. Some give many hours each week, some help once in a while, some have IT skills they use to update the website and social media, some sort donations, some transport donations to where they need to be, some liaise with other organisations, some have volunteered for years, some come and go, some organise events, some help at car boot sales etc etc. There is no ‘typical’ volunteer, just a group of people who want to make a positive difference. It is these people and what they do that makes me proud to be a volunteer with Hull Help for Refugees
From the beginning of HHfR I have been involved to varying degrees depending on my workload at the college. I find that I have more time in the holidays when I get involved with the work at the Avenues. I do however regularly accept and pick up donations and sometimes help deliver items to families in need in Hull.
I try to ensure that on a weekly basis, preferably on Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings if possible, I do those jobs that need sorting on anongoing basis. I empty all the rubbish bins and take items to the recycling centre and the skips. I take items to cash for clothes and to the charity shops. I also take boxes to the container when this is needed. I try to keep ‘an eye’ out for events in the area where HHfR can get involved and have used my house frontage to do stalls.
I am also always happy to undertake jobs like taking larger items to the garage to power wash them ready to sell or give to those who need them. I have always undertaken a supportive role in admin and accounts when asked and have input into planning on a regular basis. Along with the whole team. I love that we work together and that we respect that people must ‘dip in and out’ to fit in with our busy lives.
My name is Anne Bates. I am a retired teacher. Three and a half years ago I made my way to Athens with the intention of helping refugees. I soon connected with groups who provided food, education and clothes.
Today I connect people with people. I work alongside other volunteers and organisations. I distribute nappies, hygiene products, medicine, food and food vouchers. Many woman just need to know that someone cares. I am supporting an Afghan family with housing…I rescued them from living in the street. The man is my interpreter and is also the teacher of the online school which we have set up. In a time when many refugees are being evicted and having their cash cards stopped this work is very demanding….but it is very rewarding.
The work I have done connected with Welcome House and HHfR. I had a paid job for 2 month as a walks facilitator, this was engaging refugees and asylum seekers in the city and motivating them to go out and do exercise. As well as doing up to 4 hours walking to Bransholme and out to East Park and along the Humber this enabled me to identify any needs. This included helping refugees to get bikes funded by Welcome House as well as linking them to HHfR to be able to get clothes that has been donated to our charity. Also giving advice on college courses, free online English courses and as my background is an ESOL teacher practising English as we walked.
Secondly in the last year I have helped facilitate up to 30 quizzes on the remarkably versitile Zoom platform using breakout rooms which acted as a fundraiser during Lockdown. These are still continuing with most of the participants taking it in turns to be the quiz host. Also in the last month I have trained up as a PAT tester (Portable appliance tester) – funded by HHfR so I can test donated electrical items and make sure they are safe for items to be sold on or donated to refugees who may be in need of them.
It was probably around five years ago when there were so many tragic photos in the news of refugees dying and the appalling conditions they were living in, of course there was the poor young boy, Alan washed up on the shore which really cemented in my mind that I need to do something to help however little, whatever it was I just needed to try and help and I must’ve seen Hull Help For Refugees advertised somewhere or possibly on Facebook I can’t quite remember, but I went along to a meeting and they said can you come and help sort so I went along with someone from my work to help sort clothes in to boxes for refugees to be distributed in different countries and then it just sort of went from there really, so now I suppose one of the main things is that I help on a Saturday and sort clothes and sometimes I deliver items to families in Hull.
I have helped with putting fetes to fund raise and the publicity for them. I just help where I can and when I have time to, but I just think what is probably etched in my mind is the young boy face down on the beach dead and I think when anyone is presented with a picture like that which was all over the news you are compelled To try and help. And I will always be grateful for the amazing people that I’ve met and continue to, who work so hard to help other people and we all say when sometimes myself or other people feel a little guilty for not putting in the time or the effort as long as you can do something it doesn’t matter how small, it’s a matter what it is as long as you do something. we work together as a team those little bits we all do o make bigger bits and as a collective we can and have helped lots of people.
Working with Hull Help for refugees makes me feel good, it is so rewarding to give help to these people.
I enjoy organising collections of clothes and sometimes food and it is good to get my friends involved and giving donations. We really enjoy working together at Park Avenue. I have got to know people of different backgrounds, nationalities and cultures. The atmosphere is very supportive and I have made good friends. It’s a great team.
As a volunteer, I am helping sorting out clothes and general items in the Avenues and a new room in the Unison. I have sent publicity, messages to friends and they have helped with donations. I liaise with other organisations if necessary like Growbaby’, Welcome House and Unity Shop and families can get additional help from the. In addition, I am supporting more directly three families as we share the same language.
Recently one young lady had her first beautiful daughter, and I was present during her delivery. I never throught that I would be interpreting all the midwife and doctor instructions like ‘push, push ….’ in the delivvery room. It was a very long process, but I can say that mother and baby are doing fine.
How did I feel? Drained because the hours spent in the hospital, but it was ‘magical’ and a very emotional moment that I will never forget. What a joy! As I was able to support this family on the day.
Finally, my support could not have been possible without the help from all the team behind me.
I can honestly say that everyone in the team is making me feel a ‘better human being’
I joined Hull Help for Refugees shortly after it started, and after I had already gone to the ‘Jungle’ in France, taking donations of sleeping bags, clothes, toiletries and food to the people in that impromptu refugee camp. I have never regretted going to France nor joining Hull Help for Refugees. HHfR is a wonderful organisation, filled with compassionate, decent, friendly, hard working people, who hold similar views and attitudes.
Since joining in 2016, Hull Help for Refugees has gone from strength to strength. As a grass-roots organisation, we are now working with other agencies, sending money to support people on the ground, often with an immediacy more bureaucratic organisations would envy, and a dedicated number of volunteers who sort clothing (often washing and stitching first), household items and bric-a-brac, which are then either given directly to those in need, or sold at market stalls to raise funds.
I have been involved in so many aspects of HHfR and I can honestly say I am so proud to be a small part of this amazing organisation.
It’s been many years since I’ve seen the sense in borders and the restrictions that go with them. If people need to leave their homes to find sanctuary, then they need to be able to go to a place that makes sense to them, where they will be safe. So for me refugees are always welcome. Sadly though many don’t see it that way, which is why I treasure the people in HHfR; for them, as for me, common humanity trumps race, religion or culture every time.
HHfR has given me the awareness and strength to travel to Calais and Greece, to help out on the ground. It has given me opportunities to meet people from Hull’s refugee communities. It has given me contact with people with whom I share an understanding of the world. Most of all, when I think ‘Somebody should do something’ I know a bunch of people who can, and do.
This is my way of being anti-racist. Being involved puts me in touch with other people who are prepared to stand up against injustice and do something practical that is absolutely the opposite of the “hostile environment”. I really value being able to reach out and connect with asylum seekers and refugees both here in Hull and across Europe and beyond. I don’t have to feel alone when I see what is happening. I can get involved and make a difference. We can’t change what is happening but we can definitely make a difference to people’s lives with kindness, welcoming and solidarity. It’s about being part of something bigger. Collectively we can act and that’s empowering.