Volunteer blog: remote volunteering from around the world

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve all had to rethink how we work. At Detention Action, many of our amazing volunteers have continued to support people remotely from around the world. They help people with their cases to try and ensure their release, and making social calls to help people feel less alone. Every day this week, they’ll be telling you about their experiences of being part of Detention Action’s new global community.

Ann David, London

Where am I…

I’m currently at home with my family on the outskirts of London. We live a short drive from the detention centres.

What I usually do…

I’m a Volunteer Visitor, and normally visit the centre about once a week to provide support to Detention Action’s clients.

What I’m doing now…

Sitting in privileged isolation, in the comfort of my home and the beauty of my surroundings, I speak to people in detention on the phone. When visiting face-to-face, I always felt, with intensity, my privilege of leaving the Detention Centre into ‘freedom’. With the potential parallels of both me and those in detention being in ‘isolation’, I experience the impact of privilege stronger than ever. The fullness of my surroundings compared to the emptiness of theirs, the cooperative spirit of my community and my neighbours with the loneliness of the person with whom I am speaking.

I sit and speak feeling so helpless to alleviate the obvious suffering which I am hearing, and can feel how much I wish to make an impact on the system to shift the situation. Thinking about how powerless I feel, I allow myself to connect, albeit at such a minimal level, with how very helpless and powerless the detainees must feel caught up in a system which has so many ‘hoops’ to jump through and whose wheels turn interminably slowly.

Strangely enough, connecting with the individuals I support on the phone, allows me to experience their anguish more intensively than when I have visual contact with them.  This also opens me to speak more directly to their anguish and to stay with them there.  Somehow being away from the sterile environment of the Visiting Hall – with them in their cell and me in mine – seems to relax us both.

Remote volunteering during such a challenging time can be difficult. Despite this, I feel supported by the structure of the organisation I’m working with. I know that Detention Action is working intensively on behalf of whoever I’m talking to. They’re constantly on hand to provide the individual with support, and if possible a route out of the terrible situation they’re in. This gives me the sense of Detention Action ‘having the back’ of the person I’m talking to, and therefore having mine as well.