Roberta is Italian and has lived in the UK for the past 20 years. She works in the financial sector in investment banking, and has a Masters in Finance. Roberta volunteers working with the homeless, mentoring them to getting back into the job market, she has also spent time working with refugees in Ethiopia and Greece.
What is your background? And how will you use your skills to progress the work of Bermondsey Welcomes Refugees?
I was born and raised in Italy. I moved to the UK 20 years ago. When I arrived in London I did not know anyone and my English was not great. I immediately loved this country and its people.
Through a friend of a friend I managed to find a job in the canteen at Heathrow Airport. When I was more confident with my English, I started looking for a job in accounting and finance - having graduated in Economics. Four years after arriving in the UK I obtained a Masters in Finance in London and then started working in investment banking.
I think I will be able to provide support to the Finance Team, helping with the accounting/budget. I deal with spreadsheets and figures on a daily basis!
Have you ever worked in a community sponsorship group before?
I have never worked in a community sponsorship group before, however I have volunteered for various charities in the past.
About 3 years ago, I volunteered in a refugee camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, in the Moria Camp.
Also, for the past 3 years I have been working with the House of St. Barnabas, mentoring homeless people and assisting them in re-entering the job market.
What would be your one tip to a refugee family starting their new life in the UK?
Do not be shy and try to know your neighbours, even if at the beginning your English is not great. It is wonderful to feel part of a community, so do not be scared of reaching out and integrate yourselves. Even if your English is not fluent, a smile can say a thousand words, it worked for me when I moved to the UK and my English was not great; people were really welcoming and supportive!
How do you feel about the refugee situation? And how much did you knowabout the situation before joining?
When I volunteered on Lesbos, Greece there were approximately 10,000 refugees in a camp built to accommodate only 3,000. Most of the refugees I met there were from Afghanistan, Syria, Pakistan, Sudan and South Sudan. I saw how difficult it was to live in the camp but also how bleak the future was for those families, not knowing how long they would be there for or where they would go.
A few years ago I also volunteered in Ethiopia. I lived there for approximately 2-3 months and while there I saw some camps with Eritrean refugees.
What do you think are the biggest challenges Community Sponsorship groups face?
If we are referring to challenges that groups face in general, I would say that fundraising is probably the biggest of these. There are many, sometimes competing groups, so it can be difficult to be heard and raise profiles.
If we talk more specifically about BWR I would say that the biggest challenge will be to find a house for the family: finding a landlord who rents out the property for the mid-long term.
You can support us to resettle a refugee family and help them to build a new and sustainable life by donating to our Just Giving page