Meet our Volunteer: Samantha Steele

Published: 30 June 2016 Tags: asylum, lgbt, womens programme By John Walding

Hi everyone! My name is Samantha and I have recently joined LGBT Foundation as a volunteer for the Women's Programme.

I am currently an MA Visual Anthropology student at Manchester University. For my final project, I am working with LGBT asylum seekers in Manchester, examining their personal narratives and looking at how they are treated whilst in the asylum process.

Through doing my initial research for my masters, it has become apparent that there needs to be an outlet that caters specifically to the needs of lesbian and bisexual women asylum seekers. I see the Women's Programme as being capable of doing this, and believe it will be able to provide a strong support network for these women.

There are several reasons as to why I wanted to get involved with LGBT Foundation, and in particular why I wanted to volunteer with the Women's Programme. I firmly believe that wherever a person lives, it is important to give back to the community around you. As soon as I arrived in Manchester, I came to witness the vibrancy of its gay community and, as a straight female, I was accepted into this community by several of its members.

I'm hoping that through volunteering, I am able to give something back to a community that welcomes each individual for who they are. In regards to the Women's Programme, I see this as an exciting opportunity to work to further develop the programme to ensure that it reaches a wider demographic of women that identify as either lesbian or bisexual. For my final project, I am using arts based methods [photography and sound] as my main research tool. Having recently attended a conference on using arts-based methods in participatory research with migrant sex workers and LGBTQ people from migrant and refugee backgrounds, I came to realise that these arts methods can be successful tools that can be used in a therapeutic manner.

I also strongly believe that the Women's Programme can also be used to educate other lesbian and bisexual women on the experiences of LGBT asylum seekers. These are individuals that have had to flee their homes because their safety, and often the safety of their families, cannot be guaranteed. I see the programme as being an opportunity to provide lesbian and bisexual women asylum seekers with a space in which they are able to express themselves. I also see it as an opportunity for these women to be able to learn about the culture they are now living in, and it is also a great way for them to be active in the wider LGBT community which can be extremely beneficial for their asylum cases.

I am hoping that my knowledge on this can be used by the programme to help promote a safe space for lesbian and bisexual women and lesbian and bisexual women asylum seekers particularly, to share their experiences, and I space where I, too, am able to learn from them.

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