A group of refugees whose path to Sheffield was fraught with danger have found friendship and happiness in the Bluebell Wood charity shop.

The busy King Street store, which is reliant on its volunteer workforce, currently has 12 refugees and asylum seekers on its team. The volunteers are placed at the shop through a charity project called New Beginnings, having formed a long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship with Bluebell Wood.

Many of the group have faced unimaginable trauma in their lives - but you’d never know from the smiling faces that greet you as enter the store.

Tracey Woolsey, who has managed the shop for 13 years, said: “Our volunteer workforce is incredibly important in enabling us to support Bluebell Wood’s life-changing work, and our volunteers from New Beginnings are an integral part of this.”

“They are always grateful to have been given the opportunity to do something - to give something back to their adopted home.

“Over time you get to know their stories – the type of things that you would only ever read about or see on the TV.

“Often our volunteers have survived wars and other traumas and yet they still have smiles on their faces.

“Many of our volunteers even say thank you to me for having them here – and I say we should be thanking you! 

“They really are worth their weight in gold.”

New Beginnings, a project which supports refugees and asylum seekers to integrate into Sheffield life, have placed fifteen volunteers at Bluebell Wood since 2016, arriving from countries including Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Iran.

Ifeoma Peter, from South Africa, has been volunteering at Bluebell Wood for seven months.

“I don’t like sitting at home doing nothing,” she said.

“Tracey treats us all so well and I’ve been helped by others in the past so I want to give something back.”

Judith N’nomo, from Cameroon, has been helping out for the past six months.

“The people are lovely – so friendly,” she said. “I feel happy to come here every time.”

Michele Ward, New Beginnings Project Lead at Voluntary Action Sheffield, said: “The support our clients receive from Tracy and her volunteers is fantastic.

“They make them feel welcome and the experience and skills gained help them to integrate into life in Sheffield and whilst supporting such a great charity.”

There are nine Bluebell Wood shops dotted around South Yorkshire, North Nottinghamshire and North Derbyshire, all of which play an important role in raising the £11,000 required to run the hospice each day.