Volunteering can be a lifeline for people trapped in the asylum system who are prevented from finding paid work.

We hold monthly Volunteering Information Afternoons for refugees and people seeking asylum. The sessions are an opportunity for people to find out more about the benefits of volunteering and meet with organisations looking for volunteers.

Becoming a volunteer not only helps reduce boredom and isolation, it enables people to make connections, build confidence and play a positive role in their new communities.

Christina’s story

Christina Haddad started volunteering with Greater Pollok Services after attending one of our Volunteering Information sessions. She quickly became an important part of the organisations volunteering team.

Volunteering with Greater Pollok Services gives Christina a chance to make use of her skills and qualifications to help people in her local area. She runs the Planting Healthy Habits cooking initiative, preparing meals for residents using produce grown in the community gardens. She also volunteers in the Pollok Pantry, helping to tackle food poverty and food waste.

Courtney Thomas from Greater Pollok Services said: “Christina is an asset to Greater Pollok services. She continues to support new volunteers and has encouraged other people to take part in our gardening sessions. We look forward to working with Christina in future projects.”

We caught up with Christina to find out more about her experiences as a volunteer

Thanks for sharing your story Christina. Can you tell us a bit about the Scottish Refugee Council’s Volunteering Information Afternoons?

I found the volunteer information session to be very useful. It presented me with different volunteer opportunities in Glasgow that I was not aware of previously, and were not advertised through other networks I had already explored. The different volunteer groups attending were also quite diverse and catered to different interests.

What do you do as a volunteer with Greater Pollok Services?

I’m studying for a MSc in Food Security. Greater Pollok Services were able to find volunteering opportunities for me at a food pantry and at a community garden.

They also tasked me to run the ‘Planting Healthy Habits’ cooking project, providing locally sourced, healthy meals to over 100 people in the Greater Pollok area. This initiative involved cooking meals using produce from the community gardens and distributing them to residents. Also guiding people in the community on how to cook meals at home and encourage the development of healthier eating habits on a budget.

What advice would you give to someone with lived experience of the refugee and asylum system who is interested in becoming a volunteer?

Use your cultural background and experience as an asset. Don’t hide them, use them to your advantage and use them to support others.

What’s the best thing about volunteering?

My favourite thing about volunteering would be engaging with and getting to know people. The people I volunteer with have helped me feel supported and well surrounded in a country I was new to. I was able to build friendships, but also build a network which would be useful for my career in Food Security.

I also love meeting and connecting with people from the area, learning more about Glasgow and the Pollok area specifically. Meeting people from a similar background to mine is especially rewarding, as I get to offer them more individualized support because of our shared experience.

I would like to thank every member of the Greater Pollok Service team. Everyone has been very welcoming and helpful (not just to me, but to all the new volunteers!). I can really see and appreciate the impact they have on the community, and how it is all done in such a positive and honest way. I am really proud to be part of their team!

Our volunteering Information Afternoons are held on the last Thursday of every month except December. They are open to refugees and people at all stages of the asylum process. Find out more and register here.  
Rachel Lamb
Author: Rachel Lamb