Model UN at the Sixth Form College

On the 12th and 13th of July the Sixth Form College held a Model UN. They invited three speakers from the Community…

Rahaf spoke about her work with NGO’s and Charities while she was a refugee in Jordan. Abdulsalaam spoke about the history of Syria. Iman spoke about her work in the UN.

There was a packed theatre. 

Afterwards several of the Syrians in Colchester met around 50 students to provide ‘witness’ and answered students questions for nearly two hours. School lunch that day had a Syrian option cooked by two refugees with the support of the kitchen staff. It sold out in half an hour! Then in the evening another group cooked for the staff end of term meal.

Tom Barker, one of the organising staff said ‘ Refugee Action Colchester’s involvement in our Model United Nations conference was pivotal to its success. It ensured that students appreciate how the topics being researched and discussed at the event affect real people, both here and in other parts of the world. Visitors spoke to both a committee of approximately 30 students and all delegates as a group of more than 130. This generated much greater interest in and commitment to the event by showing that it is not merely an internal college exercise. The speakers gave students unique insight based on their own knowledge and expertise on the middle east, the work of the UN, and being a refugee.

The personal testimony of the speakers was not only informative but also moving. It had an impact which second hand reports cannot. Many students commented on this and the extended length of the session, due to student questions, demonstrates the level of engagement that the students felt. We will certainly invite Refugee Action Colchester to participate in future events and we hope to continue to develop our on going relationship with the group for the mutual benefit of both our students and the refugees involved. We thank them for their involvement.’

And two of the Syrian ladies involved said –

‘We were invited with some other Syrian refugees to meet some students at Colchester 6th Form College. This was an opportunity to talk about our experiences of the war, in our country. At the beginning we hesitated to talk about our experiences because it would take a long time to describe what is going on in Syria since 2011. But we realised that we have to talk and explain what was happening. These students were part of the Human Rights Committee in the Model United Nations. It was a good meeting and we were touched by the sensitive and humanitarian attitude of the students. They have positive opinions, questions and impressions. What we liked most, was their awareness of the Islamic religion. One student suggested a brilliant idea, to add the subject of Islam to the curriculum. In this way, we may prevent the extremists from distorting our religion with wrong concepts. Finally, we would like to thank all the friendly students and teachers, who gave us this chance to talk and we would like to thank the UK for welcoming us.’

Dylan Richards, one of the students involved in the event said –

‘It is difficult to be moved each time there is a new news bulletin covering the traumatic refugee crisis, because we in the west become almost conditioned to it. That point alone is to a degree shameful, it makes me feel embarrassed and guilty. However, the people you and I encounter on a day to day basis haven’t endured the sheer horror and devastation experienced by many refugees. Therefore, we struggle to empathise with those effected in a genuine way. However, having refugees who have settled in Colchester come to college and speak with us, not at us, truly helps one appreciate their struggle.

I know I speak on behalf of the students who were present at the discussion, how grateful we all are for them speaking to us and helping us understand the realities of what is happening in the world.

Furthermore, as a college we recognise the importance of welcoming and integrating those displaced by conflict into our cities, towns and villages. Something which Refugee Action – Colchester is doing a phenomenal job of. They provide education at all levels and in all forms, a service which the college respects hugely, as an educational institution itself, and we give our support in its entirety, because as a college we stand and support for what is right.’

by Dania Aljamous, Huda Qdee and Dylan Richards