Thousands of people give their time to volunteer in Birmingham and make a difference to people and communities across the city. In this blog, Claire Ashraf – Volunteer and Training Manager at the Refugee and Migrant Centre (RMC), shares how volunteers are at the heart of their work. 

RMC are a charity based in Birmingham and the Black Country that support refugees and migrants. Their service provides casework and advice and guidance on immigration, housing, homelessness and destitution, welfare, education and health. They also offer English classes, dedicated support with citizenship and employment and run a range of Resettlement and Integration Programmes to support new arrivals.  

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you involve volunteers 

I started working with RMC in February 2022, having spent the previous 22 years working with children and young people in the residential care and secure sector – so this was a big shift in direction for me in terms of my career! I loved the ethos of RMC and felt that their mission and values very much aligned with the type of work that I wanted to move in to. 

My role is to recruit and support all volunteers that want to support us at RMC – a lot of our volunteers have had lived experience of their own, which really enriches the support that we are able to provide to clients. They come from all walks of life, with varied backgrounds, but all want to provide the very best to our clients.   

How do volunteers support RMC?  

When it comes to volunteering, we often think about the ‘value added’ from the volunteers and I can honestly say that they are at the heart of our work.  Volunteers support with a wide range of activities. For example, we support over 45 nationalities within our offices and as many languages – so supporting with translating is just one way in which our volunteers can help.  Once trained, they are also able to offer advice around areas such as benefit applications and the like – meaning that we can see more clients each day than we could otherwise. 

We offer a mentoring programme for our volunteers at RMC – where they have a named member of staff who will give them the 1:1 time that is required, to ensure that they are managing well and are developing their skills. Other staff are always on hand to help if needed – a large proportion of our existing staff team were once volunteers with RMC. They developed their skills and were nurtured to the point whereby they were successful in gaining employment – with some even progressing to managerial roles! 

What difference do volunteers make? 

Volunteering takes a lot of dedication – time is a precious commodity, something which a lot of us don’t have! Our volunteers give their time in abundance, and I am astounded every day by the strength, dedication and willingness to help others that I see in every one of them. Life is hard for a lot of people at the moment, which means that it is inevitable that some of our volunteers will be experiencing their own adversities; and yet they continue to support our clients through theirs. The humility shown by our volunteers, along with the issues faced by our clients, keeps me humbled and grounded, and it is an honour to work alongside the team that I do. 

What do volunteers say about their experience with RMC? 

“I came to RMC when I came to the UK due to the war in Ukraine. They were very helpful. I got a lot of support and a vision of how to move forward.  It is inspiring to see people who give their all at work and try to help others. When I was given the opportunity to be a volunteer, I felt very passionate about joining RMC to help others like me. I really enjoy volunteering as I am learning a lot which can enable me to support people who have come to this country and need assistance to navigate through all the necessary processes of migration. I feel like I have a sense of purpose when I am helping at RMC, it’s an experience that makes me happy, because it makes me feel my skills and talents are being used for the benefit of other people." - Nataliia – RMC Volunteer 

“I love the environment at RMC, it’s welcoming for all categories of people and culture. I have a passion for helping migrants with my interpersonal skills, and most importantly trying my best to solve the problems affecting them in their daily life, to ensure they have a safe environment as they are far away from home. The skills I have acquired at RMC have enabled me to be knowledgeable in my field due to the skilled staff who have been such a wonderful help in my journey.” - Delina – RMC Volunteer 

Volunteering fills me with delight as it offers a profound sense of purpose and usefulness. By extending a helping hand to others, I not only contribute positively to their lives but also cultivate a reservoir of positive energy within myself. It's a culture I cherish and aspire to pass on to future generations, especially in my homeland of Iran, where volunteering isn't as common. By instilling the value of volunteerism in others, I hope to foster a spirit of community and compassion that will endure for years to come, enriching the lives of individuals and strengthening the fabric of society.” - Afsoon – RMC Volunteer 

RMC are amazing people with great and big hearts. Every day they help a lot of people with patience and professionalism. I’m very grateful to be part of this team!”  - Rodica – RMC Volunteer 

What volunteering opportunities do you currently have available? 

We have a range of volunteering opportunities open to people that want to apply, depending upon availability. We welcome those from all walks of life – everyone has something that they can bring! Training is made available and there is a shadowing period whilst volunteers become familiar with the work that we do. The volunteering page on our website gives more information on the roles available, but these range from Administration to Advisor Volunteer. Recruitment is an on-going process and applications can be made on the website: 

Every day is busy at RMC - we can see up to 200 clients each day across all offices. If a challenge is what you are looking for, as well as a chance to help change and improve the lives of our clients and their families, then this is the place for you!