When the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK back in March 2020, it meant that all of the amazing work that was being done at MRSN came to a halt. Whilst everyone at MRSN worked hard to keep the crucial services going from home, it became apparent that the effects of the pandemic were calling for a new service altogether. Out of the need to combat the social isolation and destitution within refugee communities, exacerbated by the pandemic, was born the ‘Check in and Chat Scheme’.
Upon initiation of the scheme I was matched up with my buddy and have been in constant contact since April 2020. I was given a brief summary of my buddy’s personal interests and reasons for using the scheme; from this summary I could tell my buddy was interested in maintaining their English speaking skills during the nationwide lockdown. Our first conversations were spent getting to know each other and making arrangements for how our regular contact was going to work. We decided to speak once a week at a time that worked for each other. This was a time I looked forward to every week and always felt positively uplifted post-phone call; we often spoke about our different life experiences and found ourselves in fits of laughter at some of the nuances of culture.
It came to light that my buddy was a medical doctor in their home country and was studying for tests to enable them to practice medicine in the UK. These tests were based on a competent level of English; therefore, as well as learning many other things from each other, maintaining and developing my buddy’s English skills was a main focus of our communication. Through our conversations, it became clear to me that for many refugees living in the UK, the opportunities to speak with someone in English during the lockdown were minimal. This was mainly due to refugees often residing in communities that are made up of other refugees or immigrants, that may not speak a high level of English yet, or simply communicate in their shared native language. As we got closer to the exam date, as well as regular texts or phone calls, I would help my buddy with written English through email. He would send me examples of his mock assessments and I would mark his attempt and send him a list of my suggestions and corrections.
Recently, I received one of the best pieces of news to come out of 2020…it was that my buddy had passed his exam with flying colours and wanted to express his gratitude for my help through the scheme! I am incredibly proud of him and feel so grateful to have been part of his journey until now and looking into his bright and prosperous future in the UK. My buddy has also now been reunited with his family in the UK and I wish them all the best in navigating their life here and cannot wait to see what the future brings for their family.
I strongly believe the Check in and Chat scheme to be completely multifunctional, as seen in my story. The scheme can help relieve feelings of social isolation whilst also being able to develop skills that can pave the way to a successful and happy life regardless of a pandemic.
Note from MRSN
This blog was written by one of our many dedicated volunteers. If you would be interested in getting involved in the check in and chat scheme, please click here.
This is just one of the many stories of people we have supported through our projects at MRSN.
In order that we can do more to help people through this project, we need to continue to raise money through regular giving or one off donations.
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