Ian: Greece and Cyprus 2017 x2, 2018. 2019, 2021

19/01/22

It’s just over a month since I came back from my volunteering at the Dignity Centre.

People ask when you come back from volunteering …How was it? And I always say well I really enjoyed it and we did some amazing work.

The next question is usually, isn’t it traumatic? Of course there are certain parts of every period of volunteering that are difficult to come to terms with, but you know they are far outweighed by the smiles, the laughs, and witnessing the uplifting courage and resilience of the people who are looking to you for help. Alongside all that is the personal reward of knowing that you have made a difference to someone.

The Dignity Centre ethos of “aid with dignity” runs through everything done there, from the mini market, the I.T. admin support to the “barbering”, aid with respect and a kindness that everyone deserves. That’s not to say that there aren’t occasionally some difficult people to deal with but I always ask myself:

“How would I feel to be in their situation, often with extremely frustrating bureaucracy to endure, exploitation, and often having to compete with others in the same situation for almost every resource?”

The more challenging people are often the ones who need the help the most.

There is such talent amongst the people who visit the Centre for help. I came across lawyers, teachers, electrical engineers, nurses, carpenters, builders, all looking for their safety and first step on the ladder of opportunity. Taking time to chat, but mainly listen is always a good thing to do and can be a revelation, from hearing about the lives people have left behind, the journeys they have made and their hopes and dreams for the future. If we can help them on that journey then that’s an amazing thing to do.

The Dignity Centre and Refugee Support has a beating heart, and that is the volunteer team. People (like you) who come and give their time with an open mind and a kind spirit. In no time at all on your first day working, you find that these wonderful people, are just like you and always so easy to get on with.

I have met so many amazing volunteers on my visits, and now have enduring friendships with people from all over the world as a result. This time in the team there was: an American, 2 Brits, 2 Polish, an Italian, a Swede, and 2 Luxembourgers. A truly international effort, and it goes to show how good the work is that 4 of us were “serial volunteers” for Refugee Support!

We were all so interested in an important visitor to Nicosia whilst I was there. The Pope made a special trip to investigate the plight of refugees on the island. The most amazing part of this was the experience of the daughter of a previous client at the centre, who made a speech to the Pope and then was presented to him at a special service. We were all very proud when the family came to tell us of the event.

I’m home now and the “Selfish Altruist” part of me allows me to feed off my experiences working with Refugee Support, and feel like I did a good job, but it must not stop there. What we all need to do on our return, is to spread the word about Refugee Support and let the world know, through your friends and relations, that the refugee crisis has not gone away, it’s just gone out of the headlines.

The next thing I need to do now is book my next trip!