Tuesday, May 03, 2011
For one law student, being involved in STAR has been educational in a variety of ways. Could joining STAR add to your university experience?
Sarah Gibbons is in her final year at Warwick University where she’s studying law. She got involved with STAR in her second year and was on the executive committee last year. As she gets ready to move on from uni, she shared with us why her time with the group was so valuable to her:
How did you get involved with STAR?
It was through a lecturer actually. She was my personal tutor and I went to go speak with her because I was getting fed up with everything in Warwick being about business and commercial law. She suggested I should contact STAR because she was the refugee and asylum law module leader.
I went and got involved in the volunteering and became a case worker at Coventry Refugee Centre.
What do you do as a case worker?
We’re trained up in asylum/refugee issues and then we shadow somebody. It’s an appointment-based service in Coventry, so asylum seekers and refugees make an appointment with the support service there to deal with any issues they might have. I was on the team that was dealing with integration and education, so I shadowed a case worker for awhile and then was given my own clients.
Have you learned a lot from the experience?
Definitely. It just gives you real life insight into the issues people face on a day-to-day basis.
Warwick STAR is involved in a lot of different volunteering activities. Can you tell me about some of the most successful ones?
There are probably two. One of them is the Peace House, which is a homeless shelter in Coventry that houses homeless asylum seekers. STAR recruits volunteers and takes them to the Peace House. This year we recruited a record-breaking number and we’ve also started having STAR, as a group, go to the Peace House and cook food for them, have a party, that kind of thing. It’s been really good fun.
Also, we recruit volunteers from STAR to send them to the refugee centre. They only had ten advertised spaces but because of the number of volunteers Warwick STAR sent, they had an emergency meeting between the managers and agreed to take on 30 people instead of ten.
What would you say to someone looking to join a society – why is STAR a good choice?
With STAR, the selling point is you get a bit of everything. You might have other societies that just do volunteering, or just do campaigning. STAR does everything and you get to be really involved in it. You get a real role, it’s not like you’re expected to just turn up and watch. You get to be really active – you can campaign, volunteer or organise events. You can just get involved in whatever area you want so there is really something for everyone.
It’s also quite nice to be in a community. You feel like you’re really part of a small group, which is nice, but you’re also part of the bigger national network as well, so you have a chance to feel like you’re part of something bigger as well. That’s what I like about it anyway.
What has been the highlight of your time working with STAR?
Maybe two things. The first was when we had a party at Warwick University where we invited all the refugees and asylum seekers that people worked with in the volunteer projects and got them to come in and have fun with the STAR members. It was just really nice to see everyone in the same room at the same time getting along.
Also I really liked the STAR conference I went to last year. It was really nice to see all the student groups, share ideas and hear what other people do. Hearing the speakers was really good as well. You feel more knowledgeable when you go back to your own university group.
Has working with STAR taught you a lot about the situation facing refugees and asylum seekers in the UK?
Yeah, definitely. I do refugee and asylum law as a module, but seeing real life and how actual individuals are affected by the system is something you could only get through STAR. You can’t get that through reading it in a book.
Posted by Communications on 03/05/2011 at 10:40 AM
in Group News
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