Yuliya Chystaya volunteers with Migrant Voice.

WHEN I first started volunteering about a year ago, I was curious to try new a experience, but I had little idea what to expect. Being quite shy and introverted, I was slightly apprehensive of anything that would require me to do a lot of small talk and pass myself as a gregarious, outgoing person.

When I signed up to lead photography workshop “Changing Lenses” organised by charity Migrant Voice I expected to meet people from different walks of life and from various backgrounds, but who, just like me, are migrants and also have a keen interest in photography. The workshop stretched out for several weeks and as the time went on, I enjoyed myself more and more.

I met people who came to live in the UK from all over the world and were happy to share their stories and ideas with me.

We collaborated and helped each other with our personal photography projects and at the end of the workshop we exhibited our work at CCA in Glasgow. Some of the people I met through Migrant Voice became my good friends.

I feel that volunteering can be a truly life-changing experience, both for volunteers and those whom this or that charity supports, and it is always rewarding, no matter how big or small the impact is.

It definitely applies to Migrant Voice. Some stories I heard from people who shared their experiences with me were awe-inspiring.

As a migrant, I feel that people like myself are often inadequately represented, especially in the mainstream British media. It creates exceedingly negative image of immigrants and refugees, especially if they are coming from unstable countries.

Recent political events in Britain such as Brexit, rising popularity of extreme rightwing political ideas create new challenges for migrants. Many experience hostility, mistrust and discrimination. Migrant Voice provides a platform for these people to express themselves and their views, to have a say in the matters which affect their lives and to share their stories, without relying on somebody else to represent them. It is crucial that migrant population has control over their own representation in the media.

I am proud to volunteer with Migrant Voice and support its cause because it gives people opportunity to have an honest, open discussion and confront any injustice and undeserved hostility. It provides the opportunity to have a dialogue instead of one-sided views on the issue of immigration.

Learn more about Migrant Voice at www.migrantvoice.org