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Building stronger relationships between asylum seekers and local communities through volunteering and non-profit partnerships

In the UK, we provide vital community accommodation and support services for asylum seekers, assisting our residents whilst their claims are processed and ensuring they have access to support, a safe environment to live in and a good standard of accommodation.

For our Asylum Accommodation and Support Services Contract (AASC) Housing Officers, a key aspect of the role is to care for the residents and help them settle into the community. For our AASC colleagues, therefore, contributing to their communities is not just the right thing to do, it’s fundamental to how they do what they do. By forming close ties with their communities, where they work to integrate asylum seekers, and encouraging those asylum seekers to do the same, they can facilitate faster, stronger relationship-building for the benefit of all involved.

Volunteering is an important part of this, and the AASC team work to identify and develop a good range of volunteering opportunities every year. The intention is to embed a culture of voluntary contribution to communities among our employees and, where appropriate, our asylum seeker residents. Examples include:

  • cleaning up public spaces such as beaches and parks;
  • community tree planting and renovation of community properties;
  • visiting schools to help children better understand asylum seekers and refugees; and
  • sporting projects to reduce social isolation for asylum seekers whilst encouraging physical and mental wellbeing.

Staff and asylum seekers have also been involved in assisting farmers during lambing season. A BBC article and video of our lambing volunteers in 2018 can be viewed at here.

Many of these projects are organised through local and national not-for-profit organisations who support asylum seekers. It is particularly important for our people to develop good relationships with these organisations. The benefits extend far beyond the facilitation of volunteering.

For example, wherever we provide accommodation and support services for asylum seekers, we work with local partners to establish weekly ‘drop-in’ sessions at accessible community hubs. These provide asylum seekers with access to support and advice, as well as opportunities for developing social and support networks.

We have worked with other organisations to develop health and mental health awareness education for asylum seekers, aimed at providing a better understanding of appropriate self-care and better management of expectations regarding health concerns and health services.

Our various community partners also support our annual Refugee Day event, which we host in June to celebrate International Refugee Day. The event always features many fun and educational activities and is always a huge success.