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Refugees and asylum seekers find solace in volunteering
19 June 2003

Lliverpool: Barred from paid jobs, refugees and asylum seekers in some parts of Britain are now turning to volunteer work to "help them feel more settled".

Refugees are eager to volunteer not only because it makes them feel worthy, they also want to reciprocate the communities sheltering them and helps them get accepted by local communities. "I have a brain and I was not using it," says Lydia Polevaya, a former teacher from Lithuania, who now helps a local volunteer bureau in Liverpool. "But this work also gives me satisfaction. I find it is better to give than to receive."

Local volunteer agencies are now using more refugee and asylum seeker volunteers to assist them in their daily office tasks because "they are anxious to contribute and to give back to the communities hosting them, " says Lynn Wallace, Manager of Mersey Volunteer Bureau. The Government is happy to see that asylum seekers at work - as long as it does not cost anything. The Home Office says encourages them to obtain voluntary work.

Realizing their contribution to society, local British residents are now beginning to change their attitude towards asylum seekers and refugees. "It challenges their preconceptions. And they think differently when they see (refugee volunteers) wanting to give so much," says Nick McLaughlin, volunteer supervisor at the Ansfield Bureau in Liverpool.

Excerpt from: Foreign Aid by Michael McIlvenna

June 18, 2003

The Guardian