A new refugee support worker writes…
Monday: Start work at the Refugee Support Group where I completed my last year’s student placement. Am nervous as I assume it will be a different experience this time: don’t think they will hold my hand just as much as they did then and am also worried that they are expecting me to know more than I actually do. Realise now that when I was on placement I was more concerned about passing the practical and written parts of the work for university than understanding the complex world of asylum seeking. Too late now, they offered me a sessional summer job and I accepted!
Tuesday: Second day at work at the support group, three months have passed since I was here on placement and I think I have forgotten more than I learnt but staff are as helpful as ever, and refugees just as desperate for help and advice. Amazingly, I remember most of the procedures and, more importantly, the contacts I previously made with the immigration office, which is handy as I spend most of the day calling and faxing regarding issues from various service users.
Wednesday: The office only opens in the afternoon on a Wednesday, so staff usually spend the morning at meetings and catching up with case notes, filing and phone calls. As I don’t need to do this, I spend the time reacquainting myself with the database system, to update my few case notes from the last two days. The database used here is an excellent system but trying to find specific service users’ files is difficult because the spelling of some names are similar and sometimes exactly the same. It is impossible to guess the correct spelling unless you have the official documents in front of you. Spend an hour going from paper files to electronic files before I can find the actual file I wanted and add the notes.
Thursday: It’s Refugee Week, so to celebrate, the office has a “women only day”, and what a difference in the atmosphere. Balloons, chocolates, fruit and juice are all laid out and the women arrive and react positively to a safe, relaxed atmosphere: you can almost hear the sigh of relief. Henna painting, hand massage, education advice and a friendly female policewoman are all available to offer support, advice and therapy. Service users and staff all enjoy the experience and the day is declared a success.
Friday: Queues are forming at the office as I arrive. Apparently the men who could not be seen yesterday have returned early this morning. It feels like it’s going to be a long day. It is so busy that the service users get frustrated at having to wait so long to be seen and before too long the tension in the waiting room escalates into someone losing their temper. A security guard removes the man who lost his temper and the office returns to the usual waiting room atmosphere. Feels more like the storm after the calm. Still the week is now over and I can’t believe it has flown by so quickly. And this time I don’t have to spend the weekend completing a reflective journal for university – bliss.