STAR: Helping Students Help Refugees

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I don’t know about you, but as a student, I often feel as though I’m watching helplessly as the world descends into chaos and confusion. I have £3 left of my weekly budget, all I want to do is sleep or watch Netflix, yet the planet is in shambles and I want to help. But how can I, a ‘mere student’, really make a difference with such limited resources?

An issue pressing down hard on global relations is the refugee crisis, which is arguably the most significant humanitarian crisis that the world has faced since World War Two. According to statistics by refugee charity CARE, an estimated 24 people are forced to leave their homes every minute, which amounts to around 34,000 people a day. As of right now, over 5 million people have been forced to flee the conflict in Syria, which is a shocking figure in itself, but is even more heart-breaking when you consider that this constitutes for only one conflict among numerous others that may result in people being forced to evacuate their homes and venture into the unknown, unwelcoming world.

When considering ways to help refugees as a student, an obvious way would be to donate to charity. However, this is not a viable option for some students due to their financial situation. Furthermore, some people would not be satisfied with a donation of money alone, which is where STAR comes in.

STAR (Student Action for Refugees) is a student-led society that forms part of the national organisation of the same name. They focus on helping those affected by the refugee crisis in various ways, whether it be through fundraising, educating, campaigning or volunteering. Their SUSU profile indulges in a more detailed explanation of their work in Southampton: ‘Student Action for Refugees (STAR) works to raise awareness about and improve the lives of refugees in the UK by doing the following: Volunteer at local refugee projects; Campaign to improve the lives of refugees; Educate people about refugees and asylum; Fundraise to welcome refugees.’ According to their website, ‘STAR is made up of 50 groups at universities and colleges across the UK and a national team which co-ordinates and supports the groups. STAR groups are students’ union societies which are affiliated to the charity. The charity is governed by STAR’s Board of Trustees, elected annually by the students themselves.’ Those interested in volunteering have the option of getting involved through their local university or through the national office located in London. In 2016-17, STAR supported over 4,000 refugees and asylum seekers through volunteering projects such as youth groups, homework clubs, English conversation clubs and drop-in centres.

Of course, there are ways other than volunteering to get involved. In fact, STAR emphasises the importance of educating the public about the refugee crisis with ‘clear and focused messages’, as raising awareness is a crucial aspect of supporting those affected. Students are extremely well-equipped to do so, with powerful tools such as social media at their disposal, and STAR can help to guide you on how to refine your usage of these tools to create an effective result in instigating positive change.

Overall, STAR provides the perfect opportunity to devote student resources to instigating positive change regarding a serious humanitarian crisis within the bounds of your capability. In short, STAR serves as an outlet for students to support the millions of refugees worldwide in whatever way they can. It’s important to note that membership is FREE, so contributing to the cause couldn’t be more straightforward. They are contactable by emailing star@soton.ac.uk.

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