We’re sad to be saying goodbye to our longest serving member of staff, Rosanne Alexander, who is retiring after 32 years with Scottish Refugee Council.

During her time with us Rosanne has done five different jobs, worked in five offices and helped many thousands of people start new lives in Scotland. We caught up with her to find out more.

What has changed most since you started working for Scottish Refugee Council?

My first day was 29 September 1992. There were only six of us, all in one team each with a different role. Our office on Robertson Street in Glasgow didn’t have curtains so we had blankets on the windows to try and keep the chill out. On my first day, I was sent out with four men and a van to uplift discarded office furniture that was lying in the street because what we had was broken.

There were no computers when I started. There was no Internet. Case notes used to be on paper files. We typed them up on a typewriter. If someone came in and said they wanted to claim asylum I’d fill out a factsheet then fax it to the Home Office. We didn’t have a fax machine so we had to use the one in Scottish Asian Council, who were in the office next door. They’d bring over any faxes sent to us.

What different roles have you done over the years?

In 1992 I was employed as Senior Administrator. During 2002 my role was part time Senior Administrator in the West George Street office and part time case worker in the Hope Street office. From October 2002 our Glasgow and Edinburgh offices amalgamated into a single office at Cadogan Square in Glasgow and a new Screening Team was established. I was the Senior Screener, a role I thoroughly enjoyed. Every day was a mixture of appointments and drop-ins. People who needed help would come to the office and the screeners would triage. Did they need an appointment? Did they need to speak with a case worker straight away, or was there something we could do for them then and there? We would be seeing over 100 people each day.

In 2009 a joint client database system with refugee services in England and Wales was developed and I was fortunate to be part of the working group. The database meant we could share case notes and contact the relevant office regarding someone’s case if they presented in Glasgow and had been in contact with Refugee Offices in England and Wales.  In 2011, I moved into the, Volunteer Coordinator role, sharing it with Gun Orgun and I’ve been doing that ever since. We’ve had some fantastic volunteers over the years. In 2023 we were awarded the Investing in Volunteers Award for the fourth time since 2011.

What has been the best thing about working for Scottish Refugee Council?

The people that walk through the door. Over the years I have met wonderful people that have come to our office. 98% of people who walk through the door are just fantastic, brilliant people. When they came back and brought someone with them and said, “you helped me, please help my friend”, you knew your role was worthwhile. I’ll miss the people the most.

What has been most challenging?

In the 90s Scottish Refugee Council supported people with their asylum claim. Typing up case notes from Bosnian women in the 90s was one of the most distressing times. They had to give every bit of detail for their claim to the Home Office. When you heard what they went through, that has an effect on you.

Whenever there is a change in immigration regulations there is always a group that lose support and are made homeless. One of the worst times was when it was all men coming in and we just had to hand them a sleeping bag. It was the middle of winter and really cold, both young and old men distraught about their circumstances, you feel helpless.

What are your plans for the future?

Last year my husband and I were blessed with two grandsons within six months.  We will be looking after them and my son’s beagle Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. One of my grandsons was born profoundly deaf and has cochlear implants. I have become involved in the West of Scotland and South Lanarkshire Deaf societies. I’m learning sign language and planning to get more involved with the deaf community. I will be busy.

What advice would you give to someone just starting at Scottish Refugee Council?

Don’t treat people coming to Scottish Refugee Council as a number. They’re a human being and they need your help. Also, never, ever be afraid to ask someone for help. If you’re not sure about something, ask someone. There’s no such thing as a wrong question. Remember you make a difference to someone’s life. Be proud of the work you do, take care of yourself and your colleagues. If you are not part of the services team, learn about the wonderful people coming in every day and the challenges they face. You have to support each other, take time out and have a laugh! See the humour in things. We’ve had many laughs over the years.

Thank you, Rosanne. We hope you enjoy your well-earned retirement.
Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb