Champions of Change – Alison’s Story
Whilst driving through the centre of Cardiff, Alison Sutherland from the Rotary Club of Cardiff Bay noticed that one building had a large number of men standing outside. After making enquiries she discovered it was a one of four resettlement centres for asylum seekers and refugees in Wales.
One thing that struck Alison is that the men seemed to have little to occupy their time so she approached the manager of the centre and agreed that she would deliver a programme which covers an introduction into global citizenship with the goal of helping the new citizens integrate into their communities.
The programme she developed covers a range of topics including identity and difference, human rights, and local culture and practices. She quickly enlisted help from two of the group, one from Syria and the other Sudan, to act as interpreters and encourage others in a similar position to join the programme.
Keen to contribute to their new community, many of the asylum seekers are now volunteering their services in local Rotary and Rotaract projects. Their professions range from surgeon, nurse, human rights lawyer, journalist, IT specialists, engineers, businessmen and tradesmen. Cardiff Rotaractors have also invited 16 of the new citizens to join them and get further involved in their projects.
Alison commented: “We do not provide clothing, housing or jobs. Instead we focus on helping new citizens integrate more fully and quickly into the community.
“When I asked why so many young men are here alone, they said that as soon as they were old enough, a gun was put into their hands and they were expected to fight. Yet they did not know for whom they were fighting with, for whom they were fighting against and what they were fighting for!
“Others said that they had received death threats or would be killed because of their stance on political, religious or gender issues. They were very vulnerable having made their difficult and dangerous journeys while worrying about their wives and families left behind because the journey was too difficult and dangerous.”
Alison Sutherland, from the Rotary Club of Cardiff Bay, was a Champion of Change in 2016 – read all the winners here.