You can also volunteer with any of the partners – it’s one bite, several flavours.
I came from Nigeria to London ten years ago, to join my wife who was studying there. I had a very good job in London, as well as being involved in volunteering for a community charity. I have a periodic visa and when it came up for renewal my company were worried about the risk and began to treat me like I was an illegal immigrant even though they were happy with my work. So I decided to take redundancy. I found London too capitalist and moved to Manchester because I knew it was a cosmopolitan city. I wanted to continue to give something back through volunteering and researched opportunities on the internet. Manchester Volunteer Centre told me about Manchester Volunteer Advice Partnership (MVAP) and I completed the training a year ago.
The MVAP training is really good. As well as learning about how to be an advice volunteer, we had employment training like how to be interviewed, letter writing and how to answer a phone call. I feel I have been given a skill set I can apply to any workplace. There’s ongoing training available from the partners so you learn about different topics such as immigration and mental health. You can also volunteer with any of the partners – it’s one bite, several flavours. I came to Manchester Refugee Support Network (MRSN).
Through being a volunteer, I have really learnt how to empathise with people, to focus on their individual needs and circumstances and overcome my own prejudices. I pay close attention to detail because I have seen how just one small mistake – for example in a universal credit application – can lead to rejection and suffering. My supervisor is always there to support me and I can learn from his experience, which gives me extra confidence. I always want to help someone to feel satisfied. Even if we can’t help them I will refer them to somewhere that I know I can trust – having the other partners really helps with that.
Many people fall through the council net that is supposed to protect people – even though they shouldn’t. MVAP is the net that catches people below the council net. We are like the last hope for them. There are many reasons why they might fall though – communication or language difficulties, ignorance of the system, or mistakes on either side. If there is no MVAP there is no hope for those people.
I am a better person because I volunteer at MVAP. It’s so fulfilling it’s a reason to live. I have realised that most people who make it in life follow their passion and volunteering has given me clarity of purpose. I have set up my work in a way that allows me to keep my commitment to MRSN. I believe so much in MVAP that I am happy to give extra time – if they ask I know it’s because they need it and it will be worthwhile. I have helped with the website, the magazine and the branding. And I tell people around me about what I’m doing and encourage others to volunteer. I have also seen how MVAP has built up so many of the volunteers, who all have their own stories to tell.
Now I’m not just a resident of Manchester, I’m part of the community and helping to solve situations in the community. Through MVAP, we are building the very fabric of the community.