March 8, 2023
Every Thursday night, students from around the city gather at Trinity Centre to support refugees. But who are they and what do they do? Fflur spoke with Ellie from STAR to learn more…
Who is STAR?
STAR stands for Student Action for Refugees and it is a national network of students building a more understanding and just society where refugees are welcomed and can thrive in the UK. There are student groups in both colleges and universities alongside a central team of experts at different levels. Since 2022 there are a total of 44 STAR groups across 31 towns and cities.
· Volunteer locally working directly with refugees, building understanding and connections.
· Campaign nationally for policy change and equal access to higher education for refugees.
· Learn about refugee protection and the asylum journey in the UK with experts and peers.
STAR’s Vision is to create a society where refugees are welcomed and can thrive as equal members of the community.
Can you tell us some history about STAR?
In 1992, students at the University of Nottingham were inspired by the idea of a society that welcomed refugees – so they decided to create one. Andy Davies (then a politics student, now Channel 4 home affairs correspondent) approached the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, pitching the idea of a network of student societies aimed at supporting refugees.
Andy was asked to set up a pilot scheme, and in 1994, the first STAR group was set up, with support from UNHCR and the British Refugee Council. Then-social policy student Elly Hargreave became a co-founder of STAR, growing the movement with groups in London and Edinburgh established by 1996.
Elly went on to found STAR as a registered charity in 1999 to support a national network of students campaigning, volunteering, and learning together. In 2008, the launch of our Equal Access campaign marked the start of our work improving pathways into higher education for refugees. Today, our network of informed and committed students bring about lasting change by volunteering locally with refugees, campaigning nationally for policy change, and learning about refugee protection in the UK with experts and peers.
CardiffSTAR has been running for 13 years and is very well known in Cardiff and Nationally among STAR National as a very successful group.
Ellie, why did you decide to get involved in STAR?
The summer before my second year at university, the Taliban regained powered in Afghanistan, I was outraged and wanted to do something. I searched organisations to help refugees in Cardiff and Cardiff STAR showed up! It sounded like a great way to directly help refugees and meet like minded people. I joined the first social introduction at the Atma Lounge to meet the other students and some of the refugees, it was a really nice, relaxed way to become acquainted. The following Thursday I attended by first session, and I loved it and could not believe more people did not know about the initiative. I am still good friends with both the volunteers and asylum seekers to this day from that first session.
Talk us through an average session, how does it go?
Volunteers will meet outside the Student Union and then walk over as a group to Trinity Centre. They will then be greeted by one of the co-president’s in the foyer where both students, asylum seekers and refugees will sign their names. After that, they will head upstairs for tea, coffee, chats and table tennis till 6pm when the conversation classes start.The conversation class consists of roughly two volunteers and two learners per table with a topic sheet. The topics have ranged from food, the environment, sport and more. Recently, we have collaborated with other societies such as theJazz society, feminist society and the comedy club and they will make their own sheet to do with their specific society. At the end of the sessions the co-presidents will come up with a game to do with the topic of the session.These are always really fun, and everyone gets very competitive. Then the session will come to a close and we will all walk out together. We have all become very good friends and it is a lovely environment that everyone looks forward to every week.
What activities do you arrange to raise moneythroughout the year for STAR?
We have had several events such a Christmas raffle and a second-hand clothes stall which we collaborated with the sustainable fashion society. We also have our annual refugee Rhythms event that will be happening this year on the 4th of March. It’s a daytime festival of live music from local artists and bands, ethical business stalls and fundraising stalls such as a tombola, second hand clothes stall and bake sale. This is always a wonderful event.
If you’d like to keep up to date on what STAR Cardiff are up to, follow them on Instagram @CardiffSTAR or https://www.cardiffstudents.com/activities/society/star/