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I am pleased I was able to contribute to this brilliant book by way of foreword to it. Many thanks to everyone involve with sharing their work, efforts and dedications. Volunteering and volunteers are an important part of being able to make a difference and have a positive impact. Congratulations ￼ ￼ 🥳 to Sue Clayton, Tess Berry-Hart and the team. 🙂
Thirteen years ago, I made the dangerous journey from Afghanistan to Europe as an unaccompanied 12-year-old, and now have status here in the UK. The acts of kindness that I was shown on the journey I still remember – and many of the people supporting me in my hardship and showing compassion were volunteers. Most certainly, I was touched by the kindness and support of volunteers with basic necessities of life, like food, water and shelter in Athens, Rome and Paris, and particularly in Calais. I was so grateful to all the wonderful people out there who supported and helped me in my most desperate situations and huge thanks to all volunteers and friends for continuing their efforts and dedications.
I have spent the last ten years so volunteering, giving back to the community and making a difference to those less fortunate. I founded an organisation called My Bright Kite that aims to improve the well-being and inclusion of young refugees who arrive here – because making the journey is only half the issue, young people then have to find a place for themselves and ways they can it in and belong. And I wrote an account of my own journey here called the ‘The Lightless Sky’, and have been asked to events all across the UK to share my experiences. People are mostly kind and generous and often want to know how they could help refugees. I encourage people to write to their MPs, go on protest for social justice, get active and engaged with their local City of Sanctuary group, or refugee support network, or suggest they volunteer in the UK with refugee charities or in Calais and Greek refugee camps. I am humbled by how hearing about my experiences has it has inspired and empowered them to travel to refugee camps across the world to support the efforts and work of NGOs. It’s amazing to see ordinary people doing extraordinary work, when EU governments were falling refugees but a massive volunteer movement that came to the rescue of literally millions of refugees who entered Europe in 2015 and since.
As we see across Europe, things seem to have changed in the last few years and the environment become so much less welcoming. With governments not always helping, or being hostile to refugees, and NGOs not always up to the job, the role of the volunteers has become essential – and a whole new movement. We have been so alarmed with humanitarian workers treated as criminals in Italy and Greece, also the example of the Stansted 15, peaceful protesters who were criminalised for supporting refugees. We all need to go on speaking out and be advocates for human rights for refugees and those who support them.
Gulwali Passarlay, BA (Hons) MPA, author of The Lightless Sky.