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Bridging Barriers and Empowering the Vulnerable

Written by Ranjana Prasad, a volunteer at ACAA

 

As I was led to the first page of the website, ‘Building Better Futures’ was highlighted in bold, followed by colorful links that would direct the viewer to read about the most pressing issues that the Afghanistan and Central Asian Association (ACAA) was striving to address. Beyond existing as a mere tagline, this key phrase bares the dynamic attempt with which the ACAA is looking to build a powerful footing from which the most vulnerable groups of refugees can muster a voice that is, at the same instance, impactful to the larger society and empowering to their own morale.

 

My experience of interning with an organization, whose mission shows its relentless commitment in providing the necessary support, skills and knowledge to Afghan and Central Asian refugees forcibly evicted from their homeland, was nothing short of constant realizations. For a young postgraduate who has previously enjoyed a breadth of experiences growing up in international settings, I was greatly unsettled about the scale at which the refugee population, especially the most vulnerable groups of women and children, were subject to prolonged delays and serious disruptions in attempting to gain decent standard of living in one of the most powerful countries today. In view of the range of issues ACAA had to encounter, I was driven to learn new skills and apply my existing strengths in working towards causes that we had all become part of addressing.

 

The aim to bring refugee issues into prominence among UK policymakers and government bureaucrats was the primary aim that drove me to action. I was delighted to co-organize a Parliamentary Conference at the Houses of Parliament as part of the UK Parliament Week 2018 on 14 November 2018. The conference engaged 6 professionally diverse speakers in a discussion with about 100 charity representatives and members of public to examine issues concerning human rights, security, politics and challenges to integration of refugees in the UK. Liaising with high-profile Members of Parliament (MPs), public sector bureaucrats, people from media departments and academicians exposed me to diverse perspectives of actors involved in studying the refugee issue at the ground level. With this, I contributed to drafting a background report highlighting the challenges facing the refugee community in London. In underlining ACAA’s commitment to aiding their empowerment, the purpose of producing this report was to create awareness of the situation and secure successful partnerships with MPs, policymakers and local charities for support in expanding future projects. Towards the end of my tenure, I also undertook the entire end-of-year budget reconciliation for ACAA and provided vital suggestions using which I prepared key policy documents to improve organizational functioning and project implementation.

 

Initially, I had come in with the objective of upgrading my profile with meaningful work in a sensitive area. Though, I established several other objectives as I worked. This began from grasping a nuanced understanding of the impending refugee crisis for which change had to be generated from the foundational level to positively enhance everyday lives of incoming refugees. Then, certain functions of the organization needed to be enhanced to effectively communicate the far-reaching consequences of the problem to the most important decision-makers in the UK. Through the end, I saw how the services provided by the ACAA in areas of education, skill development, immigration advisory and legal support evolved with highly perceptive inputs from determined staff and volunteers. In the process, I realized ACAA had supported not just the vulnerable refugees in empowering them but had similarly encouraged me to think beyond my bubble. ACAA also helped reinforce my own knowledge about ground realities and let me freely develop an empathetic personality that recognized her privileged upbringing in attempting to unravel the world’s most grievous problem in the current generation.

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