Ronnie Tagwireyi is one of our volunteers on the Reaching New Scots Fund project and our Refugee Advisory Group.

He has been in the asylum system for 8 years, and has recently been invited onto Migration Exchange’s Advisory Board. He lives in Glasgow.

Tell us about the Reaching New Scots Fund.

The Reaching New Scots Fund project still blows my mind, and this is a couple of months after we finished it. I remember seeing the advert somewhere and thought – let me go for this! Before that, I wasn’t really doing much. I got picked and was one of the panel.

I remember the first day walking in and Phoebe took us through everything and I thought “there’s no way we’re going to manage to do this!” But slowly but surely everything started falling into place. The enormity of the whole thing started to hit me, I walked in like “oh my god we’re onto something here. This hasn’t been done before.”

Funding is usually top down, it’s never been done by people who are refugees and asylum seekers themselves. So it was great when the applications went out, and then they came in and there was 100-something applications for a 700K fund. It was an overwhelming response. So that again was very exciting, and then we went on and did the whole process.

The process itself – first of all, I’ve got to give credit to Phoebe for the way that she guided us through it. It fell into place so nicely. So much so that I always looked forward to the next session. We showed that this can be done and hopefully it’s the start of a change in how funding works.

Hopefully other funders can look at this participatory funding process as something so good from start to finish, that people with lived experience are involved at every stage of the funding process, that would be absolutely fantastic. Thanks too to the National Lottery Community Fund. I’m really glad I was a part of it.

Ronnie joined SRC team members Farha and Lisa on a trip to London, to speak at an event held by Migration Exchange, about his work on the Reaching New Scots Fund and our Advisory Group.

Ronnie and Farha speaking at Migration Exchange’s Leadership event, 2023

I spoke about what we did and how we went through the entire process, and it was only a week after we’d allocated the funding. It went down so well in the room. There were easily 50-60 people in the room and after I think I had 20 people come to me and take my email down, saying stuff like “oh my god that’s exciting”, “oh my god well done.”

“I hope these things inspire people, and enable people in my position who are facing letters of rejection from the Home Office, who don’t have good press, who are dealing with lots of things that make you feel down, to be like, listen, we can do more, let me reach out and try and do something. Cause it’s very easy to just stay at home and mope when you’re in this situation. It was such a fantastic reception I got at London.

After the event, Ronnie got speaking to an organiser from Migration Exchange, who encouraged him to apply for their Advisory Board.

Migration Exchange, basically what they try to do is connect funders and charity organisations who support refugees and asylum seekers. And they’re trying to get funders to change the way they think and fund what is actually required, aswell as influencing policy and creating more cohesive communities.

“So this advisory board, it’s a new concept. They got 9 people who they wanted to be involved from all across the United Kingdom – I made an application and I was taken on. It’s a step up. I’ve got lived experience – I’ve got oodles of lived experience – and I can say that every day but what am I doing with it?

This is a chance, it’s a step up to actually put my ideas forward, to try and influence policy, to try and move things in a direction that I feel or my experiences tell me that things should be going in that manner. So Migration Exchange is a good platform for me to do that, and I look forward to the challenge.

The Advisory Board asks for 2 years commitment, with around 6 meetings a year. The project has given Ronnie a huge boost and he’s really excited to get started.

There’s a skills drain that happens when you’ve been in the asylum system for as long as I have. I’ve been almost 8 years now. What I want to do is influence others in my position to show them that no matter what you can do it. You’re not just an asylum seeker, you’re not just a refugee, you can be someone and your views are worth it.

“So that’s where I want to go. I want to lead in that way and be an inspiration for others. Who knows what the future holds but it won’t be for a lack of trying.

Good luck Ronnie, we can’t wait to hear all about it!


Image: Reaching New Scots Fund volunteers. Ronnie is standing in the back left of the photograph.

Chris Afuakwah
Author: Chris Afuakwah