Enjoy our new feature, where our volunteers share their experiences. Meet the magnificent Margaret!

What do you do?

I am retired – my last job was as Practice Manager at Cowley Road Medical Practice, which is where I first learned about Asylum Welcome, as we had patients who were asylum seekers and refugees. As well as volunteering at AW, I am a community governor at Wolvercote Primary School, involved in Extinction Rebellion, and love gardening and walking. I also attempt to play bridge!

What is your role at Asylum Welcome?

I staff the Welcome Desk on Monday mornings, so I welcome clients to the building, deal with phone enquiries, and generally act as the first point of contact. I am also about to start helping to provide admin support to the Huntercombe programme. I spent a year as an AFS adviser too.

How long have you been a volunteer?

Nearly three years.

What made you start?

I was looking for volunteer roles as I came up to retirement and knowing about asylum seeker and refugee issues from the GP practice, I thought getting involved with AW would be an opportunity to offer support to this community.

How would you describe your experience volunteering here?

It’s been an enjoyable and rewarding experience. I have met a diverse range of people and found the AW family to be a very warm and welcoming one. I have learnt a lot about how the system works (or doesn’t) in this country for asylum seekers and feel even more strongly than before about the need to try and improve it. It is clear that AW can make a great difference to the lives of our clients and it has been a pleasure to be able to be a part of helping do that. Most of all, the interaction with the clients has been the best part of what I have done – whether that has been sorting something out for them, listening to their difficulties and stories, or laughing with them.

What is your best memory from volunteering here?

I remember seeing the joy on a client’s face when they had finally been granted leave to remain in the UK – it was very moving and totally validated everything that AW does. On a personal level, a great memory is meeting someone I had been at school with – after more than 50 years! A new volunteer came in to shadow on the Welcome Desk, and when I was introduced to her, the name rang a bell and I thought that I knew her from somewhere. It didn’t take us long to work out that we had been at school together in London, in the same class, a very long time ago. And here we both were, many years later, volunteering for the same charity in Oxford. A fine example of “it’s a small world” – and a lovely new friendship for me and Janet.