Thursday, June 01, 2017

It’s Volunteers’ Week! Time to celebrate!

It’s Volunteers’ Week which means it’s the perfect time to tell you about some the amazing things our volunteering STARs have been getting up to across the UK!

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Each week, during term time, hundreds of STAR members take time out of their busy study schedules to welcome refugees in their local communities by sharing skills and helping people to get settled in their new home. STAR groups volunteer with and run over 50 projects like English conversation clubs, homework clubs, sports clubs and refugee drop ins. Want to know more? Here’s what some of our great student volunteers have to say about their experiences…

Lucy volunteers with STAR Birmingham. Last year, she ran the English Conversation Club in the Refugee Temporary Accommodation Centre in Birmingham, and now she’s the the group’s Vice-Chair and Volunteer Project Co-ordinator.

“Each week around 13 volunteers travel over to the hostel to teach up to 80 people, of all ages, cultures and backgrounds. It’s such a special environment – I am sure that there is nowhere else you can find this kind of diversity! I feel that by teaching English, we can make a real direct impact in the lives of newly arrived refugees. Some arrive without a word of English, whilst others seem to be completely fluent. Either way, people have expressed how much they enjoy having the chance to talk to an English speaker, even if it is only to practise understanding our accents! But the English Clubs aren’t just about teaching English, it’s about being a friendly face and trying to share a bit of joy and laughter when people are having to deal with a difficult and stressful situation. I have really enjoyed volunteering with STAR over the last two years, and feel that I have had the opportunity to meet wonderful people with incredible stories! It’s also a place where students can share about their passions and find ways of using them to welcome refugees. For example, some musicians approached us and asked whether there was anything that they could get involved in. This led to STAR organising a successful Music Night last week, which we hope to do again soon. I really look forward to seeing what next year has in store for STAR Birmingham and how much more of an impact we can have in the lives of refugees!”

Bournemouth STAR were a brand new group this year but quickly got involved in volunteering by linking up with local charity International Care Network. They recruited 20 volunteers to support different ICN projects including homework clubs, an English conversation club for women and a crèche which enables the women to take part in classes. Tillie the group’s volunteering coordinator and fellow volunteers Poppy, Leyan and Nina all wanted to share what volunteering with ICN has meant to them.

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“Volunteering with local refugee and asylum seeking children has just been such an amazing and heartwarming experience for me. Seeing the progress of their English skills and the new friends they make every session shows that they are becoming part of their new community.”(Tillie Dee)

“Volunteering with the Homework club has been an eye opening and rewarding experience. Over the past year we have been able to help the key stage 1 and 2 children understand their homework when their parents are not able to help them. Some children have been living in the country since they were babies however we have seen others come to Bournemouth from various countries such as Syria and Sudan with limited English and are thrown into classes learning about topics as confusing as medieval history! The children are so intelligent and inspiring as they are eager to do well despite learning in a language and culture so alien to what they are used to. At the end of each homework session I am left feeling inspired by their enthusiasm to learn and appreciation from them and their parents”. (Poppy Bullen)

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“Volunteering has given me the chance to actively get involved with refugees in the local community. I love fundraising and organising events to raise awareness but volunteering allows you to see the difference you can make in people’s lives by just giving up a few hours of your time, it’s so rewarding. I would urge anyone who’s interested to get involved, especially working at a homework club it can be really enjoyable! “ (Leyan Yucel)

“Volunteering at the kids crèche has been at times tiring but always extremely rewarding. We always try to make their time here as fun as possible. During my volunteering hours we goof around, play with cars, read stories and solve puzzles. Seeing the children learning English is wonderful and I feel privileged being able to help them along their way. Having a real impact in the local community is very rewarding. I would recommend everyone to volunteer!” (Nina Nagel)

Want to find out how you can get involved?

If you’re a student you can join your local STAR group or start one!

Not a student? Why not see if you have a City of Sanctuary group in your local area or you could even start one. If you are looking for volunteering opportunities contact your local volunteering centre or check out the Do-it website

Posted by STAR team on 01/06/2017 at 10:01 AM