27 December 2020

STAR volunteer and Cardiff STAR member Hannah L has reflected on the incredible achievements that STAR groups have had this term. Despite the difficulties that COVID restrictions have brought university societies and volunteering organisations, STARs have adjusted incredibly well.

2020 for STAR groups

2020 has been a challenging year for STAR groups, but they have managed to achieve incredible things! Students in even more places across the UK have come together to support refugees and people seeking asylum in their local area, with Coventry, Dundee, Durham, Leeds Beckett, NTU, Oxford, Sunderland, Winchester, and Warwick Medical School all setting up new STAR groups at their universities in 2020.

Many STAR groups have embraced the COVID restrictions by running virtual events with their members this year. These included online talks from guest speakers, such as Gulwali Passarlay at Sheffield, and Lord Alf Dubs at Leeds, and a video screening and discussion of a reading from Refugee Tales at Winchester. Goldsmiths also ran a creative online open mic night, with members creating tiktoks on STAR’s campaigns!

Many STAR groups have also managed to move their regular volunteering online, such as a craft club for refugee women at Essex and helping refugees prepare for their IELTS exams at NTU. Lots of conversation clubs have also been moved online to continue providing English language support to refugees and asylum seekers. Here are some of our members experiences:

“We have enjoyed talking about a range of topics from things like ‘traditions’ to ‘employment’ which have sparked many conversations between our learners and volunteers. We especially enjoyed hearing a learners ambition to become a qualified hairdresser and sharing some of our unique family traditions with one another.” – Leeds

“So far, some of my highlights have been learning about food from around the world, like how to make the Ethiopian dish misir wot, and chatting about our favourite music, from Celine Dion to Darbouka” – Nottingham

“The highlight of Warwick’s volunteer project this year has most certainly been the way in which we all adapted to the impact of Covid-19 on our conversation clubs, that is by continuing to support refugees and asylum seekers through online teaching!” – Warwick

STAR groups have also come up with unique and interesting ways to continue fundraising!

Bristol STAR have teamed up with Amnesty and their SU to raise £3990.40 for a legal fund for refugees and asylum seekers, and Edinburgh STAR have raised over £1000 with their new meal kit initiative. They’re also releasing a vegan cookbook over Christmas with recipes from the meal kit!

Exeter STAR have also created a Depop page for their STAR group to raise money from selling old clothes. STAR groups are also using fundraisers to spread Christmas cheer! KCL STAR are baking and delivering Christmas treats to their members’ doors to raise money for Christmas gifts at the Love to Learn homework club, and Nottingham STAR are sending out Christmas cards to refugees and asylum seekers in their area. Amazing work!

Campaigning hasn’t been put on hold this year either, with Sheffield STAR holding socially distanced Solidarity Knows No Borders protests outside the Home Office and campaigning to house destitute asylum seekers in their area. Glasgow STAR have also started interviewing refugees for their new project ‘Refugees of Glasgow’, a platform for people to talk about their experiences of moving to Glasgow in a ‘Humans of New York’ style.

STAR groups have also worked alongside other organisations, such as Liverpool and Cardiff STAR running events and promoting campaigns with SolidariTee – a great way to spread our campaigns even further.

We are so proud of everything our STAR groups have achieved this year. Despite the incredibly difficult circumstances, they have managed to volunteer, fundraise, and campaign in new and exciting ways to support the refugees and asylum seekers in their local communities. We cannot wait to see what 2021 will bring!

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