How did you get involved with the Open Cultural Centre and how long have you worked with the organisation?
Jalal: I’ve been working with Open Cultural Centre for nearly 4 years now. I first got involved with a short-term volunteering stint – just 3 weeks – in the summer of 2016. It was when the so-called migration crisis was getting a lot of media attention, and there were a lot of people stuck in transit in North Greece in really bad conditions.
Ben: I was recently introduced to the OCC by Jalal and jumped at the opportunity to support their work.
Why did you want to work with the Open Cultural Centre?
Ben: We’re living in a scary world where things constantly feel like they’re getting worse and those who are most marginalised and demonised are feeling the brunt of extremism, racism and environmental catastrophes. That was the first reason the OCC appealed to me, since they work so hard on the ground to make things better from those who have endured the most. I was also drawn to helping with OCC’s e-learning materials since I’m always up for sharing my skills of e-learning and getting creative. I jumped at the chance to help design e-learning training courses!
Jalal: Media images of families in transit, carrying all their belongings, and walking towards uncertainty and insecurity really made me think that we have a duty of care towards those people displaced by conflict and poverty. We are beneficiaries of the structures that have failed them. News of people drowning in the Mediterranean trying to get to Europe underlined the sense of tragedy and desperation in this situation. I desperately wanted to see my government stand up and show leadership on this issue, and was really upset by the apathy that was on show and that our government see that apathy as a point of pride. So, I decided that, in the absence of action from my government, I should take action myself.
What do your roles entail?
Jalal: I’ve taken a range of different roles as a member of the OCC family, depending on the needs at the time, and the skills and experience I have to offer. I’ve been an English language teacher, semi-skilled carpenter and van driver. I was full-time coordinator of the OCC project in North Greece for 12 months last year, and now I’m consulting on diversity and inclusion for our Migracode project and developing some virtual volunteer training with Ben. The time commitment varies a lot depending on my availability and OCC’s needs.
I spent most of the last 2 weekends working on the volunteer training, but during other months I might do almost nothing. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have a little less to do at the moment as OCC have had to pause their rolling out of Migracode 3, which expands our activities teaching coding skills to refugees and migrants to include Croatia.
Ben: I set up a e-learning course for OCC volunteers, which covered what to expect when they arrive and safeguarding training. I worked closely with Jalal who curated a lot of the content and who helped me immeasurably in converting static text into an interactive e-learning environment. I have also learnt about tailoring written content to specific audiences and ways to convey sensitive and highly important information in an e-learning environment. I used my Service Time – the allocated hours that King’s gives to all members of staff for voluntary activities – to get this project started, which was really helpful. For the remainder of the project, I worked after work and in my lunch break.