The second year of university has been an eye-opening journey, I would have never expected to gain such a vast range of knowledge and experiences from a degree. My practice placement was at British Red Cross Refugee Services, prior to this I had very limited knowledge of refugees or asylum seekers - most of my assumptions were based on the media representation.
However, as I began my placement I had the opportunity to work directly with service users which have moved to Plymouth after fleeing their home country from war or other conflicts. I met individuals through the Welcome Project that British Red Cross runs, this project includes supporting individuals to register with GP, local schools and integrate into the community through orientation, provide information about education and activities around the area. When you think about it, it is a difficult and life-changing situation to leave your home and seek protection in a foreign country, especially if you do not speak the language and travel on your own.
Through my placement I met some of the most resilient and intelligent people, considering everything they have gone through, I felt privileged to be there to hear their story and be able to help the individual to start a new life here in the UK. I recognised the importance of being culturally sensitive and was able to acknowledge the different cultures people come from. We live in a very diverse society and it is key to provide services that are easily accessible for ethnic minorities - this includes appropriate interpreters, resources and a welcoming environment.
My degree in social work equipped me with the knowledge to engage with service users and provide the information or support they require. In return, I learnt about new cultures, different ways of living, and sampled some of the most delicious food through women’s group workshops. I learnt a few words in Arabic and other languages, and I had the opportunity to meet some of the most amazing people that have travelled all around the world. In celebration of the refugee week, I want to say that as a community we have so much to learn from each other - shared knowledge and experience enriches us, and by learning about different cultures, we broaden our horizons and become a more supportive and diverse society.