Feb 9, 2018 · 5 min read

By running educational services with us, our volunteers fundraise for charities of their choice. Since OxFizz was founded in 2007, our volunteers have raised nearly £1m in charity donations.

We’re proud of the social impact our volunteers have — so from now until April we’ll be publishing blogs on their charities. We hope you find inspiration in what follows.

Community Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (CARAS)

The third of these posts comes from volunteer Isabel Webb, who has raised over £400 for CARAS over the last year. We spoke to her and CARAS’s Development Manager, Pete Target.

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Volunteer Isabel Webb

Tell me about CARAS:

Pete — CARAS is a community outreach charity in South West London, which supports refugees and asylum seekers of all ages develop their English skills, access services and opportunities, and build supportive social networks.

CARAS’s insight is that services are only as good as people’s ability to access them. We help address both the lack of information and the social isolation that refugees and asylum seekers face.

How did you first get involved with CARAS?

Isabel — Myself and a group of friends wanted to find a charity to support this year. For us, the most important thing was to find a charity that was local to us, where we could see an immediate impact on the beneficiaries. We found CARAS online whilst searching for London-based community charities — and it looked like it did some amazing work.

Pete — Last year I lived in Lebanon, working in a United Nations agency for refugees. I was determined to continue work like this when I returned to London, and came across CARAS. It’s a small local charity, with 6 members of staff, but we have 80+ active volunteers and saw 400+ refugees and asylum seekers last year — so the reach is quite large. When a position came up , I was delighted to take it.

And who benefits from CARAS’s services?

Pete — Exclusively refugees and asylum seekers, over half of our whom are children, by and large unaccompanied and in the care system.

It’s great to see, actually, across our beneficiaries a real sense of ownership with CARAS. They come along to events, they fundraise, they work hard. CARAS is a community, and I feel like we all pull together to achieve something.

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What motivates you personally to be involved?

Isabel — The beneficiaries of CARAS have often been through some real struggles in their life, and have a new chance to start in London. CARAS are helping them build their lives here, and I think that’s great.

Pete — Every day I come into direct contact with the people your services benefit, which couldn’t be starker to the United Nations agency I worked in before! We can save people from homelessness for a few hours work helping them access housing benefit, which is all the difference in the world to them.

What are the barriers to growing your impact?

Pete — Well, I think for us change is more important than growth; we have to respond quickly to immediate need.

What often stops us from doing this is our reliance on grant funding, which you can often spend only in restricted ways. For example, at the moment we’re developing IT support, but we’re having to rely so much on volunteers ideas, energy and time, because it takes 6 months to turnaround a new grant application.

That’s why unrestricted funding, through organisations like OxFizz, is so important to us — it allows us to be flexible.

Why should OxFizz volunteers consider donating to CARAS?

Isabel — CARAS are only a small charity, and I think it’s really important to support smaller charities who have less exposure and publicity, as they still do amazing work.

Pete — And it is very much the case that, because we’re small, you can really see the impact of your donation. As soon as we have more money, we can put on more services. 5 years ago we only ran three projects, now we run about 9. £50 can support a newly arrived woman to come to a whole week of activities; £100 pays all our food bills for a week; £200 pays for 25 one-to-one support classes, just 3 of which can save a refugee or asylum seeker from being homeless.

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How else can OxFizz volunteers support you?

Isabel — Alongside my fundraising I’m also volunteering for the charity, and this includes what Pete mentioned earlier about helping young people build their IT skills. Many of these young people fall into the same demographic as those supported by OxFizz, and I’m sure there would be plenty of opportunities to volunteer with young refugees and support them in their future ambitions.

Pete — Certainly, and we’re currently building up our volunteer programmes to welcome not only those who can offer a longish-term commitment, but those who are looking for something shorter-term. If you’re interested in finding out more, we have an open evening in the next few months where you can meet us and our beneficiaries. Please drop me an email if you’d like to come!

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If you want to find out more about CARAS, you can visit their website here.

If you are interested in volunteering with CARAS, please contact Pete on peter@caras.org.uk

If you are interested in fundraising through OxFizz, please contact Lee on lee.robertson@oxfizz.org

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