Introducing Essex STAR

Essex Student Action for Refugees (STAR) is a newly founded, student-run society which is one of over 50 of its kind operating in universities to make the UK a more welcoming place for refugees. Although only a few months old, Essex STAR has met with resounding support from the student community and it has been a privilege to watch it grow from just one singular intention to a group of inspired and enthusiastic members.

Since deciding to found Essex STAR, I have been encouraged by the support of staff, students, existing societies and more senior members of the university. STAR does incredible work across the country and I was keen to bring a piece of that to the community here in Colchester having volunteered for STAR Nottingham during my undergraduate degree. Little did I know that the university was experiencing a shift in attitude and the creation of Essex STAR would be so timely.

We have been able to represent student voices at a Working Group formed with the intention of gathering support from the university to apply for University of Sanctuary status (which has been a success!) The Vice Chancellor also agreed this week to sign STAR’s pledge towards the UNHCR goal to increase the amount of refugees in higher education from 3% to 15% by 2030.

Not only has our Equal Access campaign met with such support and success, we have been able to partner with an organisation which works tirelessly in the community and has been invaluable in Essex STAR’s growing influence. Refugee Action – Colchester is an organisation which does vital work to support asylum seekers and refugees to integrate and feel welcome in the local community. Thank you so much to Maria for such a warm welcome and for having us onboard to help with so many of your projects so far this semester. We look forward to working alongside Refugee Action – Colchester in the coming months on a number of projects including our new Conversation Club, due to start in the new year. 

Written by Bethany Webb-Strong, President of Essex STAR

Essex STAR was thrilled to participate in Refugee Action Colchester’s  Pop-Up Syrian Cafe at Firstsite on Saturday 19th October. This was our first one-off volunteering project as a society and, if we may say so, it was a great success!

Our volunteers had a lot of fun helping out with the cooking for the event, and later on with serving customers and wrapping things up. The work we were doing did not feel like work at all thanks to the cheerful atmosphere in the kitchen and how lovely everyone involved was. The Syrian and Sudanese food was incredibly tasty and seeing how it is made was fascinating. Finally, getting to meet a few amazing refugee women, to interact with them, and to learn a little bit about their stories, was invaluable. We felt more motivated than ever about our society’s purpose, and it was rewarding and inspiring to contribute to the raising of funds for the amazing community Refugee Action Colchester cares for.

Our volunteers loved this experience, so we would like to say a huge thank you to Refugee Action for this opportunity. We look forward to future collaborations and more heart-warming (and belly-filling) events.

Written by Ana-Maria Dutu, Welfare Officer and Volunteer Co-ordinator of Essex STAR