25 September 2020
As we enter into the new academic year it is with admiration and optimism at what STAR groups have achieved and are planning for the future.
This may be surprising if you spent the summer in lock-down watching the news coverage of the channel crossings and groups patrolling beaches to intimidate people seeking asylum in the UK, but here at STAR we’ve been talking with students who want to make a positive impact and who have achieved so much despite the obstacles facing them.
It is understandable to feel demotivated about the upcoming year and the challenges that we will all face. But it is important to also reflect on how, despite the challenges 2019/20 brought, STAR groups adapted and achieved HUGE things!
We now have 53 active STAR groups working across the UK (and one in Paris!) to educate, campaign, volunteer and fundraise to welcome refugees. That’s over 4,000 incredible students now part of the STAR network!
Campaigning and volunteering
We had a total of 73 campaigning events with almost half taking place during STAR’s Action Week. Bristol STAR had a month of campaigning for Lift the Ban and collected over 1200 signatures on a petition asking Bristol City Council to join the Lift the Ban coalition.
LSE STAR held a stall to gather signatures for the Families Together campaign and sold cakes, raising an incredible £120 for STAR! Their signatures helped the Families Together coalition reach a total 75,000 signatures which were handed to the Home Office by STAR staff and committee members from KCL STAR.
We had over 59 regular and one off volunteering projects, ranging from conversational English classes, drop in sessions, football groups, art classes or homework clubs with over 1,000 volunteers supporting 4,072 refugees or asylum seekers in the UK.
While many volunteering projects had to shut down during lockdown we watched as others, such as STAR Northampton Warwick and Essex continued volunteering online. Cambridge and York STAR began working with RefuNet, an online tutoring platform for refugees, giving students an opportunity to continue volunteering over the coming year.
Events and fundraising
We had some great in-person events this year, including our annual conference “The Power of a Movement: 25 years of Student Action for Refugees”. This year we were joined by frontline organisations and refugee activists for a day of inspiring talks and workshops.
Sussex STAR organised an incredibly successful music gig in collaboration with NME with 250 people attending and a huge £2,100 raised for STAR. An incredible way to meet other STAR volunteers and raise money.
Glasgow STAR were one of many STAR groups able to host the Museum Without a Home at their university. Glasgow STAR used this to collect signatures for a Families Together petition, that their MP Patrick Grady presented in the House of Commons!
This March, to celebrate STAR’s 25th Birthday we also had five STARs run the London Vitality Big Half Marathon and raise £2,606 for STAR in the process.
Unfortunately lockdown meant the cancellation or postponing of some STAR groups’ planned events, including STAR leader Alexander from running the London Marathon until next year. But for many, these events were moved online and still had great success!
Sheffield Hallam STAR created a virtual marathon challenge which raised £320. Essex STAR hosted a free online theatre workshop for women in their English conversation class, while Glasgow School of Arts had a day-long radio broadcast to celebrate Refugee Week.
Whether online or in-person, STAR groups have been making tangible change to their local communities. As we watch STAR groups get ready for freshers we are watching the new wave of students ready to support the welcome movement. Whether that be challenging negative media or campaigning and writing to their MP, STAR groups are recruiting like minded students that want to make the UK an open and welcoming place for all.
To join the welcome movement as a student, join your local STAR group or start your own! Even if you are not a student, by following STAR on our social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) you can see which petitions are available to sign and share,(Lift the Ban, End Child Detention) or you could donate to STAR to help our work continue.