Martina Asquini (UWCAC, Italy ’12-’14)
“The students who are part of STAR don’t simply deliver a service, but also engage with the refugee community and gain from the reciprocal interaction.”
STAR, acronym for Student Action for Refugees, is a British national charity. It was set up in 1994 by a student at Nottingham University. Its aim was, and still is, to support asylum seekers and refugees in the process of integration in the society and, at the same time, to raise awareness and campaign for related issues.
At Atlantic College STAR is one of the service sessions of the Social Justice Faculty. In fact, it is one of the most popular service sessions amongst the students in the faculty. The students who are part STAR go to Cardiff once a week to interact with the refugee population of Cardiff. The service session mainly consists of two core parts. In the first half session the students and the refugees spend some time together chatting, getting to know each other, playing some games, sharing personal experiences and generally having a nice time. During the second half of the session the students from Atlantic College, along with students from Cardiff University, lead English classes for about an hour and a half. The English classes are definitely at the core of STAR because they directly address one of the most basic and at the same time fundamental needs of refugees and asylum seekers, which is language. As long as they are not able to express themselves and to communicate they will not be able to fully integrate in the hosting society. That’s why teaching them English is so important.
The students who are part of STAR don’t simply deliver a service, but also engage with the refugee community and gain from the reciprocal interaction. Having personally been part of STAR for more than one semester I would define STAR as a challenging, rewarding and enjoyable experience. It is challenging because it requires a level of understanding, open mindedness and empathy that we, the students, achieve through the experience. It is rewarding because it gives us the opportunity to be truly helpful and at the same time to reflect on how big of a change we can bring about with so little. It is enjoyable because the more we interact with them and the more we get to know them, the more we realise that we there is no difference between them and us. Just yesterday I went to the STAR session. For most of the time I talked to a refugee from Palestine, one of the refugees that always comes to the session. When I left, in the van on the way back to the College, I realised that when I leave Atlantic College I will probably miss him as well, and that was just a very good feeling.
-The United Words Team-