The Selfish Altruist

Refuge Support Europe

The people volunteering on the frontline of humanitarian crises can see how valuable their work is. But when things are so tough for others, it can be difficult to admit just how rewarding it is to be a volunteer. It’s selfish altruism and we think it should be celebrated.

All Episodes

 Our Trustee for Volunteers, Bethan Edwards, first volunteered to help refugees in 2015 with a very active local group in North Wales: Pobl I Bobl. Together they have sent donations around the world and have resettled Syrian families in her area. She then went on to volunteer for Refugee Support in Cyprus and when she returned, took over the recruitment of new volunteers for us. What shines through from this conversation is the importance of community and what people can do when they come together. It can be hard work but you get such rewarding results and the people you meet make it all worthwhile. We are so lucky to have this dedicated, calm and kind-hearted woman as our trustee for volunteers and we know you will enjoy listening to her.

Nov 19

19 min 19 sec

 Bella gives such an intelligent account of her volunteering that manages to recognise what a rewarding experience it was for her, while also prioritising the livelihoods of people. Bella is 24 and first volunteered with us in 2018 after her first year of university. She is half-Maltese so has a strong family connection to the experience of immigration and wanted to help. Before that first trip, was not sure about volunteering but the experience bowled her over. Since then, she has completed 14 weeks of volunteering over 4 trips and been running our successful Instagram account for the last 2 years. This short conversation with this wonderful young woman ranges over: how inspiring people can be, white saviour complex, attachment issues, personal boundaries, mental health, being thoughtful about our work, learning from it, privilege, making peace with it and how to consider impact. Not only have the community benefitted from Bella’s volunteering but she has acquired some real wisdom from being thoughtful about it.

Oct 24

23 min 54 sec

Mandie McGarry has a long career in the corporate insurance world but it was volunteering in Cyprus that made her feel like what she was doing what she was meant to do. She describes it as one of the best experiences of her life despite it being a huge emotional rollercoaster. It was hard work and the first few days were tough but it ended up being exhilarating. This is the confusing and contradictory state of mind that we hear a lot from volunteers. Collaborating with other volunteers and our amazing Cyprus Director Paula is clearly enjoyable but we discuss whether it is right to enjoy helping people who are so desperate. We also talk about her wonderful experience of giving Tesfay, an Eritrean refugee, a room in her home through Refugees at Home. And how that fits in a country where there are so many hostile attitudes.

Oct 16

19 min 39 sec

Desiree has been one of our core volunteers since 2017. Not only has she helped refugees in Greece and Cyprus, she also campaigns for a peaceful solution to the divisions in her own country. She’s just returned from 2 weeks’ volunteering in our new Dignity Market in Nicosia so we talk about what is great and what is difficult about that. We also discuss the deep divisions between the two communities in the north and south of the Cypriot island following the war in the early 70s and her continuing struggle to build peace between them. After 50 years of conflict it is hard to be optimistic, so why does this amazing young woman keep going? We love this: “Even if nothing changes, at least when we’re older we can say we tried.”

Sep 28

22 min 3 sec

Events in Afghanistan are moving fast and the current humanitarian crisis could overwhelm the region. Our volunteer Trustee Gulwali Passarlay fled Afghanistan as a child refugee 15 years ago. The Taliban takeover has now dashed any hopes he had of returning to help rebuild the country or be reunited with his family. Hear  about the situation in Afghanistan now from one of the UK’s leading  refugee campaigners with a unique and insightful perspective on the  situation there now. And hear what the UK Government needs to do immediately to help. You  can get Gulwali’s inspirational and jaw dropping account of his refugee  journey The Lightless Sky from all good bookstores or Amazon. You can follow his tireless campaigning on Twitter @GulwaliP If you are concerned about the situation, write to your MP.

Aug 24

27 min 36 sec