One stranger at a timeMelanie Berard
For the past few months I have been working for TimeBank as the RISE mentoring project coordinator. RISE stands for Refugees Into Sustainable Employment. Through this project, TimeBank volunteers are supporting refugees to find and sustain employment in the UK.
For me personally, RISE stands for the new rise of my faith in what I do, a newfound belief in my work alongside people seeking a better life in Europe.
I have gone back to working with refugees after a period of doubt. I left my home town on the French-Italian border, where I had been working with asylum seekers for two years. My previous job taught me a lot about myself and how difficult it can be to help others, especially in a hostile political context. It confirmed a lot of my fears about what people have to endure before they can hope to acquire the right to live and work in Europe and the UK.
Luckily I hold a European passport, so when my work contract ended I just took a flight to London, in search of a new life, a new job, and more than anything, in search of my lost faith in what I do.
These first few months working as a refugee mentoring project co-ordinator have helped me rise again, thanks to the inspiring people I get to meet every day.
I meet people who have been in the UK for more than 10 years and have only recently acquired the right to work. I meet people who suffer from mental health issues caused by traumatic experiences in their home country, on their journey here or through years lived in fear of being sent back, and not being allowed to work in the UK.
I meet people who were qualified professionals back home but their certificates will never be recognised here.I meet people who are very young.I meet people who are very lonely.They all have something in common: they give me hope.
Because they are still here, standing in front of me, telling me that they want to make a better life for themselves.
They give me hope because in spite of everything they are still ready to trust a Londoner, a stranger, to come into their life to make it a better place.
Meeting these volunteers, these Londoners, these strangers, hearing why they want to mentor a refugee, I start believing again.
Believing in a place where hope can be retrieved, a place where we can build a shared, a better future together, one stranger at a time.