Volunteering at ASSIST has given me invaluable experience with people who are often misunderstood, maligned and scapegoated by an hostile media and indifferent society.
When I first started volunteering at ASSIST, fear of asylum seekers was stoked to justify regressive policies on migration and welfare. Now the mere presence of asylum seekers and refugees, to some, is deemed a existential threat to 'Western civilization'.
But behind the misinformation and the fear-mongering are real people; people who have been denied dignity for too long. The people I have met at ASSIST have stories rich with sacrifice and struggle, replete with the idiosyncrasies and complexities of their cultures. Those stories chart their own personal journeys from wherever they had called home, to sitting with me at a church hall on a Wednesday in Sheffield city centre.
I consider it a privilege to advocate for them and struggle with them; people who have become friends and allies, who have often been cast adrift by forces beyond any one person's control. Forces which, by luck of geography and birth, haven't compelled me to leave everything I cherish. I consider it a privilege, and my own modest way of restoring some semblance of dignity, to be part of the process of helping them build a new home.