Polly and I had toured Southern and Eastern Europe for a year by bike in 2001-02 and we had often been given spontaneous help and generosity from strangers, usually those with the least, in a way that made me want to do the same for anyone I could help. I also thought very strongly that the way our country treats failed asylum seekers was most unjust.
Then, in 2004, I went to along to Heeley Festival to help out at the Cycle Sheffield stall. Whilst looking around the rest of the site I found the ASSIST stall, where I talked to Robert alongside the Palestine Solidarity Campaign stall. I have since become involved with both groups.
I was impressed with the organisation within ASSIST and the support I was given as I started: the induction training session was particularly effective and gave me a very good idea of the journeys and difficult legal processes the people who came to ASSIST had experienced.
I am as impressed now as I was then with the support, organisation and ethos within ASSIST: I feel that all I have to do is to turn up twice a month and sleep at the Night Shelter. The rotas are sorted, there is food in the kitchen cupboard, the bedding is regularly washed and any problems that have arisen are taken on board and properly addressed.
I continue volunteering because of the many impressive people I meet. There are other dedicated volunteers who have a strong sense of what is right and just and who have a wide range of skills to enable them to get things done. There are the guests who show an incredible strength of character in the face of the hostile environment deliberately created to discourage them from making the difficult journey here and the threats they face if they are deported. And, finally, there is the immense generosity of ASSIST’s supporters.