Spotlight on Reading Refugee Support Group in its 25th year

Oriela De Rossi
Author's position
Community Journalist
Primary interest
Refugees and Asylum seekers
In June we covered Reading Refugee Support Group receiving the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. This month, our Community Journalist, Oriela De Rossi, went to visit RRSG and take a more in-depth look at what receiving the award means to the organisation.

Chief Executive, Nick Harborne, said: “Reading Refugee Support group was built on the backbone of volunteers and some of them have remained involved these whole 25 years, therefore it is awfully important that their loyalty, sympathy and support to refugees is not only acknowledged but honoured”. Nick added “today some people are so focused on money, when others have so little. Our volunteers, however, love helping those in need, and it’s a two-way thing – they get something from it, too”.

Reading Refugee Support Group’s Deputy Manager and Volunteer Co-ordinator, Claire Harris, said that receiving the Queen’s Award “gives recognition to the organisation, making it feel more real, while reassuring potential partners that we are an established organisation”.

Alongside helping clients feel safe and welcomed during a hugely difficult and isolated period in their lives, the charity encourages refugees and asylum seekers to attend English speaking classes on Mondays and Wednesdays where they can also mingle over tea and cake.

English language supporter and befriender at RRSG, Marc, explains: “the desire to work for the charity springs from the feeling of helplessness when watching what is going on in the wars around the world. There is very little you can do at the cliff face, but at Reading Refugee Support Group you can help in so many ways”.

Meanwhile, Julie, another volunteer who helps by translating English and Arabic, explains that “clients often come to see that they are not alone in the world and to be surrounded by people with a huge desire to show support”. This certainly was the case with Radwin and Aabeer who fled Syria in 2012 to move to Egypt, arriving in England late last year. They explained that they travel an hour and a half on public transport to get to RRSG, because it is the only place that they do not feel alone. Radwin, an engineer, added that at Reading Refugee Support Group both he and Aabeer feel “as if they are coming to see family”.

Claire Harris explains that aspiring volunteers from all walks of life – international human rights students, full time workers or pensioners – get in touch daily. Members of RRSG take on various roles, such as helping with Maths and English, getting involved with the half marathon or performing admin, HR and fundraising roles, in their dedication to helping vulnerable victims who have fled their homes. Claire welcomes anyone who has an interest in helping the organisation, particularly “if you’re someone with spare time who enjoys meeting people”.

Nominating an organisation for the Queen’s Award

RRSG was nominated for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service by a former volunteer, someone with first-hand experience of the hard work that is put into the organisation. Local organisations with a minimum of two people working to meet the needs of the local community can be nominated for the award by individuals who are independent of the organisation.

Other Berkshire charities selected for the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2019 include:

Further information

Save the date: Reading Refugee Support Group’s 25th year celebration