Why we care – Meet the DOTW National Health Advisors
Published 15th June 2021
This Refugee Week, Doctors of the World are introducing the members of its National Health Advisors, an advisory group of people with lived experience of migration and healthcare exclusion, to ensure migrants have a greater influence over healthcare policy and practice.
Migrants with lived experience of health exclusion know the negative impact of policies and services that don’t include them, and their voice and insights should be at the centre of changing perspectives among the general public, as well as playing an essential role in ensuring that DOTW takes well-informed decisions and provides inclusive services. Their voices will drive sustainable, systemic policy change in healthcare.
The launch of the National Health Advisors aligns with DOTW’s strategic objective to “strengthen our movement with greater numbers of healthcare professionals, activists and service users who together support and set the direction of the organisation”. In line with this objective, our approach will be to “work hand-in-hand with those benefiting from our services, advocacy or activism.”
National Health Advisors work as an equal partner in the project, bringing their voices, views and insights to our services, policy influencing and strategic engagement work, and media work and campaigns.
Abie is one of the new DOTW National Health Advisors, and she took on the role to make a difference.
“I joined the DOTW National Health Advisors because I want to make a change, and because of the way migrants are treated.” Abie continued, “my dream is to see all refugees and asylum seeker being treated as equal.”
She believes Refugee Week can shine a light on the immense contribution that refugees make to society here in the UK. “Being a refugee is like going on a journey where you don’t know the destination. I think Refugee Week is an umbrella under which we can celebrate refugees’ contribution to the UK and promote better understanding between different communities and encourage successful cohesion with the community.”
The theme for this year’s Refugee Week is We Cannot Walk Alone, which is “an invitation to extend your hand to someone new. Someone who is outside your current circle, has had an experience you haven’t, or is fighting for a cause you aren’t yet involved in”.
Abie said of this, “the theme for this year has a lot of meaning to me as I have been able to meet and make friends through the National Health Advisors and also I have found out how I can help other people to know how they can access their GP.”
When DOTW National Heath Advisor Chantelle made her own refugee journey, she was not alone, and she wants to pass on her experiences during this Refugee Week, and beyond, to others.
“When it was my refugee journey I didn’t walk alone, I walked with DOTW, the Red Cross, Women for Refugee Women,” Chantelle said. “This journey is not meant for one person. Walking with my fellow refugees inspired me so much, and making a difference to them to continue this journey fulfils me more than anything.
“It is obvious that we cannot walk alone. We can’t afford to walk alone.”
The chance to help others through her role as a National Health Advisor has also given Chantelle the opportunity to make friends and feel supported in the UK.
“Being a National Health Advisor helps me a lot to connect with everybody. The crew I am working with is just an amazing bunch of sweethearts. Same ambition, same goal, it is just a pact. Having meetings from time to time with the National Health Advisors is therapeutic in a way for me as I have still ongoing health issues up and down. It helps me so much to connect, it is a kind of spiritual feeling for me.”
Chantelle believes that everyone has a part to play in helping refugees feel more welcome when they arrive in the UK. She believes that there are some simple and practical things that everyone can do to show that they stand with, and support, refugees.
“Go online, read more about what we do as National Health Advisors, read more about organisations like DOTW. Each and every service in the UK could have information for people in the immigration system, to tell them how to go about everything.
“We need to have more content on social media about helping migrants, organising events to let others know how they can give help to people trying to make this country their home. We did have information and there were people on the ground to assist us… we need to make sure that information reaches everybody, and everybody understands what it means to be a refugee.”