Each month we highlight a London charity that is helping to make our neighbourhoods better. This month we spoke with Sarah Collings and Edward Malloy on the Learning and Development team at Breaking Barriers to learn about the work this small London charity does to support refugees into employment. They are currently seeking new volunteers; read on and find out more about this London charity and see if this might be a volunteering opportunity for you.
Please tell us about the charity…
Breaking Barriers’ mission is to help refugees in London acquire the knowledge, confidence and experience to get stable, fulfilling employment. We offer bespoke, intensive and flexible employment support to assist individuals to integrate and create more rewarding lives.
We are focused solely on providing a holistic employment service for any refugee, regardless of their background, length of refugee status or English language capabilities. We aim to bridge the gap between the refugee community and the private sector helping to facilitate employee development and provide a more inclusive, diverse workforce.
In March 2019 we are launching our third delivery centre in Hammersmith, where will be supporting refugee clients from across West and North London.
Why is the work of your organisation necessary?
Despite having the legal right to work, around 70% of refugees in London are unemployed. Compared with the UK national average of 4%, it is a sobering statistic. Even for people with years of education and work experience in their home country, navigating the UK job market can be a huge challenge. We aim to lessen the hardship and provide stable journeys for our clients and their futures.
Our innovative approach focuses on provided long-term support, delivered face-to-face by our skilled caseworkers and volunteers. Each of our refugee clients has unique goals and aspirations, and so we provide individualised support to suit their particular needs.
What are your funding sources?
To achieve our vision, we give a central role to businesses and employers, involving them directly in helping refugees find jobs. We currently have 19 active corporate partners, including: IKEA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and WeWork. They donate funds as well as offering paid work placements and job offers to our clients.
We are also funded via grant givers. The work we do wouldn’t be possible without their generosity, loyalty, and continued support.
What obstacles does your charity face?
Our model relies on volunteers, and the recruitment and retention of volunteers can be challenging. Within this, there are also added obstacles, such as finding suitable volunteers with sector-specific knowledge. If we have a client who wants to get into accountancy, teaching or medicine, then we want volunteers who can provide that specific advice. This is particularly challenging when launching a new Delivery Centre – which is why we are currently looking in volunteers in Hammersmith and West London!
Do you hold fundraising events throughout the year?
We don’t hold any regular fundraising events, but we do hold an annual exhibition celebrating the achievements of our clients. Last year’s exhibition ‘A New Beginning’ featured the work of eleven renowned photographers and artists who were commissioned to visually reflect on the diverse character of the refugees’ experience in the UK. This year’s event will be held in the autumn and is open to the public, details will be announced later on our website.
How can people get involved and help?
We are currently in the process of opening our new Hammersmith Delivery Centre. We are looking for Advice & Guidance Volunteers, with knowledge of HR, recruitment or other sectors, who can support our clients.
Our volunteers commit to just a couple of hours every week or two. The volunteering takes place on a Wednesday day time, but the exact time is flexible and many volunteers fit the role around childcare, study or work. It is a skilled volunteer role, that allows parents to use the skills and knowledge they have developed in their careers.
One of our current volunteers who fits the role around her childcare and other commitments said:
“BB is such a unique volunteering opportunity. You use your own professional and life experience to support others to plan and achieve their career goals in a new country. It’s a very practical way to help make a real difference to someone’s life. But it’s a two-way street because you also learn so much from the people you work with – their experience, their drive and motivation, the challenges they overcome. It’s very inspiring and humbling. ”