Volunteering in Cyprus: Sue’s Diary Week 2

18/01/22

Week 2 In Cyprus

It’s my second week at the Dignity Centre in Nicosia and I continue to learn lots. My French has not improved though but my confidence at saying: “merci”, “bonjour” and “no parlez vous François” has! Had my first Spanish speaker this week, a young woman from the Dominican Republic and honestly I could have kissed her. So good to speak my limited Spanish and know I could understand her!

This week feels like it has gone from the ridiculous to the sublime as the charity has stopped taking new registrations so the Centre was very quiet.

…Saying No!

Last week we were completely ‘full on’ every day. Most people come to register to access the food in the Dignity Market during their first two months here whilst waiting for benefits and of course the charity can only afford to do a certain amount. This meant that lots of people came this week expecting to register and we had to say ‘no’.

The other ‘in demand’ service is the one offered by a refugee who has experience of the process to register for a Labour Card. A crucial service as so many asylum seekers simply want to find a job and get on with their lives and if they don’t register and keep re-registrations every few months their (meagre) benefits will be cut…sounds familiar to those of us working with asylum seekers in the UK!

Unfortunately the charity can only afford to pay him to offer the service 2 days per week so again many people came for that service and we had to say ‘no’ but come at a later date to get an appointment for the following week.

Then the numbers coming to access WIFI meant that we had too many people congregating outside the Centre to remain Covid safe so that service will not be available next week. Like many others I find this heartbreaking as some had used their last few euros to get a bus from other places on the island to access our services and some, like a guy I talked to from Guinea was using our WIFI to WhatsApp his wife and baby, something he can’t do regularly because data cost money.

So I have been reflecting on saying ‘no’…interesting to me as I came to Cyprus saying yes?? Another volunteer said saying no to someone means we can say yes to someone else… that is true and no charity has unlimited resources available to be able to serve everyone and we all know how difficult it is to say ‘no’.

At Refugee Aid Chorlton our most difficult times are when we have to say ‘no’ or compromise because we can’t achieve the standards we desire but if we always say ‘yes’ our volunteers will burn out and saying no will become more likely… and we are fortunate that whenever we ask our donors for help they respond.

So a more philosophical note this week.

…And saying Goodbye

To end, I am coming home next weekend as a close friend has passed and I need to be with my community. This also made me reflect as I have been in constant communication with people at home this week, I have unlimited data so can do this but even so I have felt so bereft and desperately want to be with people physically during this sad time.

I will fly home for the funeral and to spend time with loved ones. For so many of the asylum seekers here and in the UK they miss all these ‘rites of passage’ being trapped in an asylum system that does not allow them the dignity to be in communication or to travel to a birth, death or marriage.

See you soon and thank you for reading.
Sue x

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