I came to the UK from Gambia in 2009, fleeing persecution. I applied for asylum and am still waiting for a decision from the Home Office on my case.
It is a difficult process going through an asylum claim. I have felt isolated and this, together with being on benefits, really affected my confidence.
I really like being active around people and to have a job. I had completed a teacher training programme in Gambia and had worked in a school as a support worker. But unfortunately, as an asylum seeker, I am not allowed to work here in UK.
I wanted to volunteer in a charity shop as I knew these are usually busy places. But I never had the courage or confidence to just walk into one and volunteer. I asked the staff at the Archer Homeless Project, where I was a service user, if they could help me, and they told me about the Sheffield Volunteer Centre.
The New Beginning Project (at the Volunteer Centre) talked to me about the volunteering I wanted to do. They referred me to the Oxfam Charity Shop on Fulwood Road, helped me complete their application form and wrote me a reference.
I now volunteer at the Oxfam Shop as a Shop Floor Assistant and Cashier. I am part of a team of staff and volunteers. I meet and serve a lot of customers who come to buy and/or donate goods. On the till I handle cash and receive payments. At the end of the day, I help with cash counting and reconciliation. To train me to do the till work, they asked me first to shadow an experienced member of staff. Then they let me do the work while observing me and correcting me. I am now confident and can do most of the work on my own.
The trust the staff at Oxfam have shown in me by letting me work at the till and handle cash has really helped me with my confidence. It means a lot to me that after initial support, I am now treated like anyone else.