A Journey to STAR Annual Conference 2019
Twinkle Twinkle Little STAR
How We wander,
How Big you are.
Happy Birthday STAR ( Silver Jubilee)
My blog for today, I will start looking at the shooting STAR on the Sky which brings me hope of equal access for education. A bit strange to guess? How can a STAR fulfill my dream like a fairy Tale? Actually I am talking about STAR( Student Action For Refugees) which is more than a real star to me. Let me introduce you with my inspirational Journey with STAR**
How did I got involved with them?
I got helped for my IELTS course and exam from a charity called Refu Aid, London. Hessy Elliot from Refu Aid introduces me to a wonderful person “ Christopher SMART” to help me with the applying process to the university and Sanctuary Scholarship. He helped me with my application and with so much information which was really great. One more person from Jumiyaa Project Ben Sir who helped me through the process as well. Since then I got involved with the STAR movement. Wherever I go I always use STAR equal access tools and information to help asylum seekers and refugees about HE.
My first involvement with STAR
The first time I got an email from Christopher Smart about the Equal access review training including IMIX, I was really excited. It was 23rd of august this year where I meet other STAR who is actually making the differences for the people like me. We have discussed many issues which are creating obstacles for the equal access scholars in real life in that training. To be honest I was very excited as it gives me a chance to travel to London after a long time and to know about the STAR movement very closely. Here I met Emily Crowley who was very supportive and kind. There was also IMIX who taught us how to involve in media and this is where I have learned the importance of social media and its relationship with Campaign. My website and blog are actually inspired by them. Thanks to STAR and IMIX for the inspiration. For me as an asylum seeker starting a blog was a big challenge. Because of the little money, I have to pay for this does matter in my daily life. But I am really happy I am doing it now.
STAR and University of Sanctuary
As I am being a member of Expert by experience panel of the City of Sanctuary UK, I learned about the university of Sanctuary from September. The University of Sanctuary is working alongside with STAR to ensure the Sanctuary universities are acting properly. UoS ensures the legacy of Sanctuary scholar continues with some criteria to be a University of Sanctuary. Sian Summer Rees, Ben Margolis, Sam Slatcher, Vanessa Schofield from the City of Sanctuary helped me to attend the first-ever University of Sanctuary conference in York St John’s University where I have also felt the power of STAR movement around the UK. I was very lucky to sit with the scholars’ panel at UoS first conference and clarifying the obstacles we face still now. I am really glad I am involved with both of them.
STAR Annual Conference- “The Power of a movement”
During the period of the last 25 years, STAR has enlightened so many asylum seekers and STAR student groups with their campaign. I was been given a golden opportunity to attend the Annual AGM this time on 23rd of November 2019 in London with STAR. STAR is a network of 50 ( Currently) students societies who volunteer at local refugee projects and campaigns to improve the life of refugees and asylum seekers locally and nationally. STAR groups in the universities stand with the refugee students and make sure they are being supported and get the appropriate assistance. With that great power of movement, we have stared out the conference on 23rd of November in CASS Business School in London at 11 am.
The program started with the introductory speech of Chief Executive of STAR. Then we had an amazing speaker from Refugee rights Europe “ Marta Welander”. She spoke about the horrible situation of refugees’ denial of safe and legal routes to seek asylum in certain countries. We have witnessed horrible situations in the rough sleeping of refugees in Europe and the externalization of asylum response in the EU countries.
I was been with the STAR campaigner panel this year so I had an opportunity to talk and inspire students with some aspects of creating a New STAR society in their University or College. I was with Ben Margolis to reflect on the aspects of the University of Sanctuary movement and how STAR groups in the University can help the UoS movement. She also talks about the criminalization of solidarity across Europe. Then we had excellent speaker Director of Refugee Council UK “ Maurice Wren”. He brings up the early era of refugee campaign in the UK and the long journey Refugee council the UK has made through the time and it’s a success. He described about the Dublin 3 process and other matters about the local organization’s long term contributions. He thanked the STAR movement which really makes a difference in refugees’ life and to the country. Last but not on the list then I had my favorite Speaker on board “ Shrouk El- Attar” She is an excellent inspirational speaker with lots of real-life experiences which does make me inspired personally. She is UNHCR woman of the year, BBC 100 most influential women in the world and IET top, 6 young female engineers. On top of that, she has passed her journey as an asylum seeker and a refugee and she was involved with the STAR movement since she was in university. A big STAR to have at the conference. I literally could not resist myself to express my desire “ You are my inspiration from now on Sister” I called her sister from my heart and suddenly I got a big hug with a reply “ You are my brother from now on” What an achievement for me of the day! I am really grateful to have her as my sister. Then we had a question-answer session with the speakers which was chaired by “ JAMILA Abdullahi” A star group campaigner and supporter. I did ask a question to the speakers about the death of migrants on the way to the UK and what is the organizations will do about it in the future.
Then we had a great lunch session with STARS. The food was amazing and vegetarian. Everyone was chatting and enjoying food. I had a chance to speak to new students at that time and I meet with a Esther Mark Baleh who I did a course in Durham in September from the city of Sanctuary, A college student Abdullah from hammersmith college, Students from different universities around the UK and especially Greece.
Then I have joined the workshop as a STAR equal Access Steering group campaigner with Ben Margolis ( City of Sanctuary) to discuss with the student about the Sanctuary movement and University of Sanctuary movement. We have tried to reflect the main idea behind the UoS movement and its involvement with STAR and how students can create new STAR society on their campus to support the UoS movement. I have personally expressed my experience to set up a new society in my own university and how I am helping the local asylum seekers and refugees using conversation class tools every week. I am giving the asylum seeker an opportunity to explore the university beforehand they apply for university and scholarships. I have named it “ University Shock” like culture shock. This kind of social integration beforehand they apply for university gives them courage and also keeps the legacy of sanctuary scholarship or equal access scholarship I believe. The real-life example I have asked 20 students in the conversation group which is consists of local refugee and asylum seekers that how do you feel coming to the university. Every single one of them replied, “ We feel proud ourselves and empowered”. Here I had a quick chat with Emily Churchill Zaraa ( Refugee week UK Co-Ordinator) about refugee week. She is very supportive and listens to my story. I was been given a wonderful box of CHOCOLATE as a thank you gesture by STAR. I was really happy to get it from Christopher SMART.
The Last Session:
Well after the workshop we went back to our auditorium for the student taking action past, present and future workshop. There was a panel of STAR group members from past, present. Panel members were- Heba Tang ( KCL Star president) , Ben Margolis( STAR member 2004, Leeds), Jonny Voza Zola( Teesside STAR graduate) , Bella Browne ( Nottingham STAR president), Angkella Argirofski (the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Start now). This session was chaired by our STAR “ Maryam Taher” -York STAR graduate and Equal access Activist)
We had couple of question-answer in this session. Coincidently, we have found out STAR group was very productive for the previous members. Especially one of our members has found his future wife though this group when they both were a member of STAR group at the university. I am very optimistic about hearing this legend.
A day to be remembered…
With all those positive empowerments and inspiration the time was nearly 5 pm and we have to finish our STAR conference. I was feeling a bit sad but I was very happy to get a new sister, A box of lovely chocolate, new friends, a lot of inspiration, skills and My favorite STAR*. I wish and really wish I would be there again next year and years forward which never ends. Please send me your comments and suggestions about my blog if you like. Thank you for reading my blog again.