Refugees join Sheffield's Bluebell Wood team

A group of refugees, whose path to Sheffield was fraught with danger, have found friendship and happiness in a Bluebell Wood charity shop.

By Nik Farah
Monday, 05 August, 2019, 14:29
Refugees’ dangerous journey leads to Bluebell Wood sanctuary

The busy King Street store, which is reliant on its volunteer workforce, currently has 12 refugees and asylum seekers on its team. The volunteers are placed at the shop through a charity project called New Beginnings.

Tracey Woolsey, who has managed the shop for 13 years, said: “Our volunteer workforce is incredibly important in enabling us to support Bluebell Wood, and our volunteers from New Beginnings are an integral part of this. They are always grateful to have been given the opportunity to do something - to give something back to their adopted home.

“Over time you get to know their stories – the type of things that you would only ever read about or see on the TV. Often our volunteers have survived wars and other traumas and yet they still have smiles on their faces. Many of our volunteers even say thank you to me for having them here, and I tell them we should be thanking them. They really are worth their weight in gold.”

New Beginnings, a project which supports refugees and asylum seekers to integrate into Sheffield life, have placed 15 volunteers at Bluebell Wood since 2016, arriving from countries including Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Iran.

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Ifeoma Peter, from South Africa, has been volunteering at Bluebell Wood for seven months. She said: “I don’t like sitting at home doing nothing. Tracey treats us all so well and I’ve been helped by others in the past so I want to give something back.”

Judith N’nomo, from Cameroon, has been helping out for the past six months. She said: “The people are lovely – so friendly. I feel happy to come here every time.”

Michele Ward, New Beginnings project lead at VAS, said: “The support our clients receive from Tracy and her volunteers is fantastic. The skills they gain help them to integrate into life in Sheffield.”