Samad and Vida have been volunteering with Herts Welcomes Refugees (formerly Herts Welcomes Syrian Families) for a year. They are one of a growing number of couples who have decided to volunteer together for our organisation.
Why did you get involved with Herts Welcomes Refugees?
Samad: I was not aware of any organisation that actively helped asylum seekers in the Hertfordshire area. My intention was to join a charity that offered free immigration advice to asylum seekers.
As Iranians, Vida and I have gone through the visa process ourselves almost every year, sometimes more than once per year. We’ve helped friends and family members with their visa applications, and have dealt with visa rejections and the appeal process. We know how time consuming it can be to find the correct information. We also understand how devastating it can be to have your visa rejected.
I thought I could use my own experiences with this to help others. I found Herts Welcomes Refugees online and was very impressed by the fact that it helped in much more than visa matters.
Vida: Samad joined first, attending a language training session [for Herts Welcomes Refugees volunteers]. He came back very excited and encouraged me to join as well. I’ve now been helping a Syrian family to practice English for a year, and I’m very happy that I can stand next to someone who is putting a lot of effort into navigating their way through life in the UK.
What kinds of things do you do as volunteers?
Vida: I help a Syrian family with their English, and also occasionally help the children with their homework. However, in the past couple of weeks, I haven't been able to meet them regularly as we are expecting a baby very soon. After the baby is born, I’d like to get more involved. The woman in the family is very keen to get her driving license so I’m helping her get the right information.
Samad: I have been involved in setting up a couple of computers, and also helping some of the Syrian men with their driving licenses. There are some social events which we try to attend to meet the families and other volunteers.
Can you tell us about a positive experience you've had volunteering with HWSF?
Samad: One of the Syrian men recently got his driving license after putting in a lot of effort. I was involved in helping him get ready for his test and I was very happy for him, particularly because his family is expecting a baby (and I know having a license will be crucial).
Vida: I think people are doing really great work by volunteering. And even with the little steps that we are taking, we have felt very encouraged and positive. So we want to assure others that whatever small help they can offer is very valuable.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Samad: I attended the last general meeting where some of the Syrian people were invited on stage to talk about their experiences. I remember a lady who alone was supporting her family in all different aspects, from helping her husband with his medical condition to looking after the children with their schools. She said that despite not having knowledge of computers she was trying very hard to use the internet to find some information [to help her family]. These stories were sometimes heartbreaking, but at the same time so encouraging in the sense of how strong these people must be.