Wednesday, September 13, 2017

SuperSTARS -  we’re highlighting amazing STARs of the past and their careers

We couldn’t do this without hearing from the man who started it all – Andy Davies.

Well known for this work as Home Affairs Correspondent with Channel 4 News, Andy took time out to give us the lowdown on how STAR came about.

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NAME: Andy Davies
JOB: Journalist
STAR History: Founder

“In December 1992, aged 23 and teaching English in Catalonia, I had an idea: the creation of a student network supporting refugees around the world.

“The thought came to me after reading one of UNHCR’s monthly bulletins (entitled ‘Focus: Famine’). I wrote a letter – floating the idea – to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“To my great surprise, their Public Information Chief Sylvana Foa responded: ‘We like your idea. A lot’.

“I imagined they’d be the ones to set it up. However, they asked me to devise and run a pilot programme. And so STAR was launched at a Nottingham University fresher’s fayre one Autumn morning.

“I’d just arrived to do a Masters there. I stood alone, as I recall, in front of a couple of UN logo refugee posters, a makeshift logo I’d asked my brother to devise, and a table boasting an empty membership list.

“The response in those first few hours made me realise it could work. The university had got itself a new society, and STAR its founder members.

“One of the first to sign up was fellow Nottingham student Elly Hargreave. Elly, a brilliant motivator and organiser, went on to run STAR in subsequent years and was the real force behind laying the foundations for its wider expansion.

“My career took me in a different direction (BBC News trainee; BBC Northern Ireland; Panorama; and now Channel 4 News), but however distant an observer I have been in those years since, STAR has always been a cause close to my heart.

“I have covered numerous stories involving refugees over the years. The more I learn about the challenges many who seek sanctuary in this country have faced, the more convinced I am by the value an organisation like STAR has.

“Of course there is the vital work of helping to inform, accurately, the wider public debate on asylum and immigration. But at its simplest level, the concept of a group of young volunteers providing simple gestures of welcome and support to those starting lives anew must surely yield so much goodwill in the long term.

“It was great fun setting up STAR. It was even more fun being a part of it during that early period when we tried to create a template for others to follow.

“To see it thriving now is a credit to every single STAR recruit who’s bothered to care enough to get involved. What has it taught me? If you have an idea, however simple, don’t always assume someone else will do it.”

Posted by STAR team on 13/09/2017 at 02:05 PM