First Experiences as a NEST volunteer - 23/11/2017
I am Ellie Mahoney. I am a second year English Literature student and I have only been part of N.E.S.T for about a month and a half now. I originally heard about N.E.S.T from a friend, who was already doing a lot for it and loved it. I knew I had to volunteer for N.E.S.T as the enthusiasm and excitement volunteers had when they talked about it was overwhelming. There had to be something about volunteering for N.E.S.T that made it different.
While I was always going to be a volunteer, I knew I wouldn’t be able to devote as much time as I wanted and it deserved, because I was taking the Career Development Module. However, I was told N.E.S.T could in fact be used as a placement and so I would be able to spend the hours volunteering with N.E.S.T instead. For someone not acclimatized to the typical ‘desk work’ placement that many are doing, N.E.S.T was perfect for me. It is something I feel extremely passionate about but also something I enjoy doing. Not only is it a worthwhile placement for me it also helps the community grow and become a more inclusive, and just generally friendlier place.
Volunteering with N.E.S.T is a rewarding experience for everyone involved. You can see that the refugees love coming to the sessions. I have now had the experience of teaching the same people a few times and that in itself is amazing. When they come back, recognize you, and ask about how you’ve been, it feels like you are part of something special. For the volunteers as well it is extremely gratifying. It is something completely different to do in the evenings or at weekends. It is also a flexible volunteering role to have and I have found it easy to fit my university work in with volunteering because there are so many sessions. The sessions are laid back and fun so even if it has been a stressful week, I have found these sessions help.
N.E.S.T is not only for people who want to teach, but also for people who want to learn. The learners are incredibly willing to learn anything they possibly can from you whether that is a better grasp of the English language or, just which course you are doing at university. However, they also love to tell you about themselves. Since starting at N.E.S.T I have been taught how to write my name in Arabic, the history of the Arabic language, about the cultural differences between the UK and Syria, and many more things.
N.E.S.T is so much more than just teaching refugees, it about being part of and encouraging a changing society. It becomes a passion and something you genuinely want to do, not something you feel obligated to do. Few people can say they have truly helped to progress the society in which they live. N.E.S.T volunteers definitely can.
The N.E.S.T. Family - 14/06/2017
My name is Sarah Armoush and I am a Lebanese. I moved to Newcastle back in September 2016 to pursue a PhD program at Newcastle University. It was the first time I moved away from home, got detached from my family home; my parents, my siblings, my friends; basically, from my comfort zone.
This huge move was life changing to me. I came to the UK with mixed feelings of excitement and anxiety regarding the new adventure waiting ahead. I kept wondering about the new city I am moving to, my new home, the people and obsessing with the idea that for the first time in my life I will be perceived as a foreigner. The first month was not easy, it was quite challenging to settle in, yet it was better than expected as I found friends willing to help out and provide guidance when needed.
Starting in the new working environment where I have to pursue my degree was a bit difficult. It felt weird. I was always trying to make an effort to blend in, to fit and to make new friends. Being a social butterfly back home, finding myself now in an environment where it required a lot of effort to blend in was not so easy.
With time, things became better and I managed to find the people of value which made me feel well and enabled me to start a new comfort zone here in Newcastle. You may ask why did I just write about my experience while this should be about N.E.S.T. I will tell why. When I first heard of N.E.S.T, it was quite exciting for me to go and volunteer especially that back in Lebanon I was enrolled in all types of volunteering activities. Back home, I coordinated and worked on many community projects with all age groups. The self-worth you feel after volunteering cannot be felt in any other way. You feel you have a purpose in life. Trust me, I have seen and heard the most heart-breaking stories ever but being able to support those people even with a bit of hope brings you joy you have never experienced before.
When I volunteered in N.E.S.T, there was something different. When I saw the people trying so hard to learn the language, to adapt, to fit in, it reminded me of my own journey. I already knew the English language so well and found the whole experience of being detached from home tough. However, I made that decision, I decided to take the risk and embark on this journey. Most people in N.E.S.T didn’t have that privilege, they were forced to make that journey and just thinking on how challenging it must have been for them, it compelled me to actually try to help in any way.
When I went to N.E.S.T, I expected to see people feeling down or hopeless but what I witnessed was the exact opposite. The enthusiasm I saw in learners in N.E.S.T, the amount of effort they were putting to make it through, the smiles on the kids playing around, the spirit of volunteers in N.E.S.T; who were among the most welcoming people I met in Newcastle; made me regain a bit of hope in humanity. Among all the darkness surrounding us, especially for those of us coming from the Middle East, I saw light coming from initiatives such as N.E.S.T with dedicated people who are willing to selflessly support those who struggle and make them feel ‘home’.
Thank you N.E.S.T for reminding me why being a volunteer is so important. Thank you N.E.S.T for trying to make the world a better place for those who have struggled so much!