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Katie’s CRMC volunteer stint is springboard to the Far East

CRMC volunteer Katie McFadden is on her way to a tough but exciting new challenge in Cambodia.

Katie, who has been helping the Centre’s Advice Team since last September, has landed an internship with the United Nations in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. She will spend three months assisting with the Khmer Rouge trials taking place there.

She will be part of a team working on a case which has just finished, checking and correlating evidence, helping to make sure that when the judgement is delivered, justice will have been done.

It will be tough work, and Katie, 25, is prepared for some horrific details. The trials were launched to deal with people accused of crimes against humanity and genocide committed during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979. Nearly one third of Cambodians died from starvation, illness, torture, or execution under the regime led by Pol Pot.

In 2001 an agreement between the United Nations and the Cambodian Government led to the setting up of a special court to put the leaders of the regime on trial.

Katie, a graduate who lives in the Stoke area of Coventry, said: “I’m really excited to be going. It’ll be an incredible experience.”

She’s hoping her work at the CRMC will stand her in good stead. She joined the charity after graduating and was part of the Advice Team, which is the charity’s front line. They are the first port of call for people seeking help, and they have to be ready to deal with a huge range of problems.

“Anything can come up at any point,” said Katie. “There’s never a typical client or issue. There’s the hugest variety of issues and it can be a bit stressful. You gain basic knowledge quite quickly – things like asylum support, benefits, housing, employment, things I had not had much contact with before.”

And the experience was “fantastic…really eye-opening”, she said.
“The feeling of self-satisfaction when you can sort out someone’s problem, that’s fantastic. And it’s been great to work with such an incredibly varied group of people at the CRMC. Everyone clicks together really well.”

Katie’s Cambodian internship could be extended to six months, and longer term, her ambition is to be a solicitor dealing with such things as human rights, immigration and asylum, or perhaps family law – something that would be of help to some of the most vulnerable people in society, she said.

But along the way, she might even come back to help out at the CRMC again.

CRMC Director Sabir Zazai would welcome her back. He said: “I’d like to thank Katie for the wonderful work she has done for us, and to wish her the best of luck for the future.

“It’s nice to think that while she was helping us, we were helping her to gain some experience in the kind of work she wants to do. That’s what volunteering with the CRMC is all about – it’s good for the clients, and it’s good for the individual too.”

The CRMC depends on volunteers to help deliver its services. The Centre has 35 paid members of staff and 87 volunteers, and there are always opportunities for people to help. Just phone 02476 227254 or email info@covrefugee.org

Caption: Volunteer Katie McFadden, off to the Far East
ENDS

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