Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Heart of STAR 1999 - Ruth Pryce

In celebration of STAR’s 25th birthday, we took the time to reconnect and share the stories of the people who made it possible for STAR to be where it is today. These are The Hearts of STAR, these are the change-makers, who through the decades strived to positively impact the lives of refugees and create a welcoming society in the UK and we are proud to share their stories with you on this Refugee Week 2020.

Ruth Pryce

1999 – 2006
The first-ever ‘Volunteer Network Coordinator’ at STAR Head Office – and then CEO of STAR
Current job: Head of Programmes: Young People at Paul Hamlyn Foundation – a grant making foundation

How and why did you get involved in STAR?

I have always been passionate about human rights and wanted to work in that sector when I left university. When I saw the STAR volunteer role I was still figuring out what I wanted to do with my life (I had two paying jobs, at a pub and at a local cinema – and was volunteering for STAR and CAFOD in their campaigns department). I am still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life 😉 but STAR certainly impacted my choices since and the role I have now!

What impact did you see STAR have on your community

a. At university
I saw first-hand how STAR members and groups impacted individuals and their experience of university; forming life long friendships; making a difference to how others felt about, welcomed and advocated for newly arrived migrants; and how experiences of volunteering helped people settle into their university communities and really make a difference to migrants who were also new to that community.

Again seeing young people raising awareness of why newly arrived migrants may be in the community, forging connections, and running projects that bring people together – celebrating and supporting what community means. All of this is integral to the impact STAR has across the UK – and the world (we had STAR groups in Washington DC and Cairo when I was involved).

What is your favourite thing about STAR?

STAR has the ability to bring people together, to make people think differently, and to remind people that migrants are people too – with lives, family, histories, and stories of survival that most people will never have to experience. Whilst students have only usually moved to a different county or city for their studies – and so are newly arrived in communities too – it is that connection of being newly arrived that I think is so simple – and yet so special and effective – at forging links, enabling support and ultimately leading to integration and celebration.

What impact did STAR have on your life or on what you do now?

I honestly would not be where I am today without STAR. I absolutely loved my time developing and leading STAR in the early days. Working alongside Elly Hargreave (Founder of STAR) is still a career highlight – even though we operated out of a store cupboard next to the server room that was always about 100 degrees in the summer and freezing cold in the winter! STAR introduced me to the power of student activism and movements – in supporting and developing networks and in organising for change. All of this is still so relevant today. STAR also introduced me to the challenge of raising funds for this vital activity – and as a result, when I left STAR I wanted to work for those with the resources, the grantmakers, Trusts, and Foundations – to try to make it a bit easier for charities like STAR to access funds. I am still pursuing that challenge today – but would like to think I have made a small difference in my nearly 15 years in the grant-making world.

What message would you like to give the current STAR students?

Now is the time to start on that path to making the world a more just and peaceful place – and STAR is the perfect network to support you. You’ll make lifelong friendships, learn so much about the world without going anywhere (although I am sure you will travel too) but most importantly you’ll have fun doing it! Your power to advocate for change, to provide a welcoming smile and support for those newly arrived in your communities and to change hearts and minds is vital.

An inspirational quote from the heart of STAR

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” Dalai Lama (but I am sure Elly will use that one so if you need a different one). Find out what Elly’s inspirational quote is.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Posted by STAR team on 17/06/2020 at 07:38 PM