23 November 2020

Societies in all universities are struggling to adapt to COVID restrictions. At STAR we understand how demoralising it can be having your initial plans for the year be cancelled or severely restricted. But we also know that STAR groups are also incredibly creative and determined to unite students in their community and welcome refugees to the UK.

We’ve spoken to four STAR groups that held online or remote events and fundraisers and heard all about how they managed to plan and carry out these events.

Ellie from Edinburgh STAR has written about their creative ‘Meal Kit fundraiser’:

Our group had been struggling with the fact we could not host any in person events this term and therefore came up with our STAR meal kit campaign. We decided that students might benefit from a type of meal kit service, providing a pre-prepared cheap, healthy and vegan meal which they just assemble themselves with our provided recipe. Our thinking was that it would encourage people to eat healthier, come together as a flat or a halls and to raise money for our ongoing fundraiser which goes towards the IELTs.

IELTs stands for International English Language Tests. These tests are often used an internationally recognised test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers looking to work or study in an English speaking country. It costs money to register for the test and to access tuition or revision materials, for many this is an extra cost that just isn’t possible to pay for. As a result, Edinburgh STAR have been fundraising to cover these costs and afford people the opportunity to register for these tests. For more information about accessing education as a refugee or asylum seeker, check out our Equal Access Resource page.

So far we are on week 4 of the meal kit service and it has been a huge success! Our orders have increased from 8 to over 35 in one week! Some examples of our successful recipes were the; blackened garlic miso ramen and the homemade butternut squash ravioli with a creamy mushroom sauce (below).

We have found that people are coming back week on week as they enjoy the routine of having one healthy and cheap meal provided for them per week. If anyone is interested in understanding how we made this happen or how we are creating recipes and finding bulk cheap ingredients please do reach out to us. (STAR Edinburgh on Facebook and @mealkit.star on Instagram).

Freya from Bristol & Ella and Giulia from Goldsmiths have written about their Joint Lecture series:

The conversation around white saviourism and voluntourism is one that we have been acutely aware of, and wanting to explore, since we set up the Goldsmiths STAR group in 2018. After several of our committee members – including Ella – returned to London from volunteering with grassroots projects and charities abroad, we felt the need to explore the ethics of such trips, and the importance of volunteering responsibly: discussing both the implications in a broader sense, and on a personal level by asking ourselves whether we were truly doing the best we could, and having a positive impact, or if our actions were in any way harmful, regardless of the intention.

We initially hoped to hold a panel discussion in the last academic year but didn’t get around to fully formulating the idea into reality before the pandemic hit. At the time we were disappointed, and with the majority of the original committee graduating, we were worried the idea would never be realised. Goldsmiths and Bristol STAR’s collaboration on the series ‘Race in the Non-Profit Sector’ felt like a ‘the stars aligning’ type of situation.

While attending the online training hosted by the STAR charity this summer – in which Freya and Giulia were put in a breakout room together – we started chatting about our plans and aims for the year, but in classic breakout room styles we were cut off mid-conversation. So, we turned to Instagram and started messaging on there through our STAR pages to discuss more ideas and eventually, we decided to organise a zoom call. We spoke about what issues we would like to see spoken about more, and with the recent increased momentum of Black Lives Matter movement we all agreed this was a very important one to focus on. Thus, began our chaotic planning!

Over the course of several zoom calls we finalised how we would like to approach the subject, settling on a three-part series involving differently structured conversations all exploring race in the third sector.

Connecting Goldsmiths and Bristol STAR was the best thing that could’ve happened! We were able to pool our resources, motivation, and skills to develop the idea from countless hours of conversations and discussions and thousands of WhatsApp messages, eventually leading to a series of three events. Combining our connections and knowledge also meant there were so many more possibilities we could explore. We were all able to research and reach out to different potential speakers, most of whom we would never have thought of individually.

Having ‘sold’ over 250 tickets so far, this event series has been a huge success with amazing turnouts. But alongside this, it’s also been a really fun experience. Working long distance has been strange, but it has resulted in three events we are all very proud of and new friends in new cities. We cannot recommend enough putting yourself out there and connecting with other STAR groups, amazing collaborations and new friends await!

There is one final lecture tomorrow, A Conversation: Discussing the Dangers of Voluntourism and How to Avoid it. Tickets are still available here.

James from Exeter STAR writes about their ‘Hot Chocolate Care Package’ Campaign:

In the face of tightening restrictions, from both the government and our university, we decided last month to launch a fundraising campaign that involved no face-to-face contact. In this case, we considered how we could offer a service for people to send messages or gifts to their friends who may be isolating, or they have been unable to meet up with due to Covid restrictions. One of our committee members (Natalie) came up with the idea of delivering hot chocolates with a personalised note attached, the contents of which we could buy for 75p and sell on for £3 each (or £8 for three).

The sales process was relatively straight forward, through a Fixr page that we shared via our social media, with a box on there in which to write the personalised message. We managed to raise £80 in total, with all proceeds going towards our fundraiser to support charities working in the Moria camp. The success of this first round has inspired us to consider a second, this time possibly candy canes (or other treats) for Christmas next month, or roses for Valentine’s Day in February, also with personalised messages.

Next Tuesday (1st December) we’ll be sharing our favourite moments with STAR and Oxfam groups and celebrating your successes (and hopefully start to get into the Christmas spirit!). Sign up to join in the festivities and share your achievements with other students across the UK here.

If you have an event that you’re proud of, do contact Hannah (hannah@ star-network.org.uk) to write a blog or a social media post to help inspire other STAR groups. As with many charities, STAR relies on fundraising efforts to help pay for the resources sent out and the support we provide. Please contact Courtney (staradmin@ star-network.org.uk) for more information about how you can fundraise for STAR.

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