This August marks a year since the escalation of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan due to the occupation by the Taliban. This crisis meant that many Afghan nationals were facing horrific threats to their lives and safety resulting in an increase in the number of people who were in search of sanctuary.

We’d like to use this anniversary to share the experiences of Megan, one of our Refugee Resettlement Advisers, who worked in one of the Afghan bridging hotels.

Every day at the hotel was different, some more challenging than others. However, every day the team were able to make a small difference in our clients' lives by giving them advice, helping them with an application, or by merely having a chat with them. From working at the hotel, the team were reminded of and learnt some important lessons:

Communication is key. It may seem like common sense but supporting at a bridging hotel reminded them to never underestimate the importance of communication. Day to day, it is easy to simply assume that people understand you. There were times when staff had not recorded an action fully, or the details of an action were unclear. When this happened, it made supporting a hotel full of clients unnecessarily difficult. And who doesn't like things to be easier? This was a lesson that we learned very quickly and, as the time at the bridging hotel ended, the team had really started to master the art of communication and had a central person that we would direct all admin to.

Teamwork was also crucial to providing effective support at the hotel. Setting up and implementing a scheme is by no means easy. Providing support at the hotel required a lot of teamwork, between colleagues, hotel staff, and, of course, the clients themselves. Many of our clients went out of their way to try to speak English or help one another understand English.

Alongside these important learnings, our staff were sometimes reminded of their powerlessness over certain situations. It is deflating when your clients are frustrated by  an issue that you have little or no power to change, resulting in both staff and clients feeling weary. I soon realised that it is not about what you cannot do, but what you can do that makes the difference. Even in situations where you cannot automatically "fix" a problem, there is always something to be done, even if it is chasing up an organisation that has not replied to you or being adaptive and thinking of an alternative option. Keeping positive and continually offering support to clients went a long way towards keeping spirits at the hotel high, breaking up the monotony of life the hotel which many of our clients experience.

The team also learned that although the views of service providers are important, it is more important that we listen to our clients' experiences and take on their feedback. The following was written by one of our clients at the hotel, with the help of her husband, who stayed in a bridging hotel in Scarborough before coming to Kent:

'It was an old hotel. The hotel was next to the beach, and we had a nice view. The staff's behaviour was appreciable, and they were friendly, but the services were not of a good standard. The food was not cooked properly, and all the guests were complaining about it. The hotel management never brought changes to their menu and food, whereas they should cook some kind of food acceptable for the guests staying in the hotel. All the Afghans in the hotel would have appreciated it if the hotel management acted upon our suggestions and recommendations. '

Hearing about experiences such this is invaluable and can be used to help us innovate and improve our services. As our client made clear, she and other residents at the hotel she stayed in would have appreciated having their feedback taken more seriously. We feel that this is crucial, whether providing support in a bridging hotel or providing 1:1 support to our clients.

Ultimately, living in a bridging hotel is never going to be a perfect solution, and the end goal is to help our clients move into their own property. However, we should always strive to make the experience as comfortable and beneficial for our clients as we possibly can, and if we were to support others in a hotel again, this should be a priority. Supporting at the hotel has made me really appreciate the little things. For example, being fortunate enough to have your own bedroom where you can get some time to yourself, and a kitchen where you have the freedom to cook whatever, whenever you’d like.

Self-reflection of our services really helped us to develop and improve the support we offered at the bridging hotel, and the lessons we learnt will be useful in all areas of our work.