23 Aug 2017

The Volunteering Wales Network discussed, at its recent meeting, the ways in which the Brexit vote has damaged community cohesion, with notable rise in hate crime and intolerant attitudes.

A blog written by Rocio Cifuentes, Director of the Ethnic Youth Support Team highlights the impact of Brexit on young BME people with whom she works in Swansea. Last year's vote, she argues, can be seen as 'a symptom of underlying creeping racism'.  And there has been 'no counter - narrative to an increasingly anti-muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric'.  Young people of EYST have made video about how Brexit has affected them.

What is the role of volunteers and Third Sector organisations in such a context?  What opportunities are there to build a counter narrative that embraces diversity and strives for community cohesion?

We were pleased to welcome Harriet Protheroe Davies from the organisation Hope not Hate, since these questions strike at its core purpose.

Formed in 2004, Hope not Hate has a political wing which set out to oppose the rise of the British National party (BNP). It has a charitable wing also, which connects community organisers across the UK and brings diverse people together to discuss issues that can often be contentious, such as mental health or immigration. It provides training to organisations or groups in how to have conversations around such topics that are not antagonistic.

Third Sector organisations need to speak out, using examples and scenarios that are rooted in our day to day work. They can facilitate human contact between different sectors of the community, which can broaden or change even deeply held views. It is so easy for us to only meet with, or interact with, people whose views are like our own.

Volunteering is one vital way in which asylum seekers to this country ca 'give something back', meet people and begin to integrate. A new information sheet, 'Welcoming volunteers who are asylum seekers or refugees' was launched during refugee week. It comes from the experience of a Swansea forum of 30 organisations, and shares practical issues of best practice in volunteer management.

Many volunteer involving organisations try to recruit for a broad diversity of volunteers and aim to be as inclusive as they can. They have a role in challenging misconceptions and prejudice wherever these crop up and they can actively develop links with organisations that work with refugees, asylum seekers, BME and migrant communities.

If you are interested in joining the Volunteering Wales Network or would like further information, contact Fiona fliddell@wcva.org.uk