Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Hearts of STAR 2018 - Maryam Taher

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.

Maryam Taher

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2018 – present
STAR Board Trustee, previously with York STAR

how and why did you get involved in STAR?

I was one of the beneficiaries of STAR’s Equal Access scholarship campaign at the University of York, and I joined STAR society in 2018 as a Volunteering Coordinator. I found out that STAR is the charity that started the campaign for this scholarship, and I wanted to be a part of the positive difference this campaign made. I worked closely with the alumni and philanthropy office to speak at crowdfunding events about my experience and how the scholarship helped me. In this way, I was contacted by STAR to speak at student and staff conferences as a refugee student and a recipient of the scholarship. I was fortunate enough to also participate in a video campaign and an activist group established by STAR to continue the development of these scholarships and increase them.

What impact did you see STAR have on your community?

a.At university
We saw a great impact from a host of fundraising and campaigning events. From socials to informative campaigns that engaged various students, there was great engagement from students with the mission and goals of STAR – to create a more welcoming environment for refugees in the UK. Student and staff support was also incredible for the equal access campaign, helping make more places for refugees and asylum seekers at university.

b.Locally
Although York had a very small refugee community, STAR gave us the support to engage university students with initiatives like university-wide donation collections for refugees in Calais, hosting an open day for refugee students from nearby cities, and taking part in campaigns such as Families Together and Lift the Ban, educating the community about the importance of these campaigns and increasing petition signings. This informed students and the community better about refugee rights and the laws that affect them negatively.

What is your favourite thing about STAR?

My favourite thing about STAR is the passion of its student network, the diversity of students that make up the network in their backgrounds, skills, and experiences coming together for a common goal is inspiring. As a refugee, the enthusiasm I have seen within the students made me feel welcome and extremely proud to be part of it.

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

STAR gave me a platform to use my voice and speak the obstacles I have faced to make a positive difference. The charity and its network allowed me to inform those who can make a positive policy change about the benefit of equal access scholarships, and I felt strength and confidence in sharing my story in a way that could make a difference. I felt part of a caring and welcoming community which, as a refugee, I wasn’t fortunate to have in the past. STAR gave me a comfortable space to be myself and feel listened to and understood, which meant the world to me and taught me invaluable skills and information about the campaign and the charity.

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

Thank you for creating a welcoming space and environment for people seeking protection here. Your passion and determination is inspiring. Although you may not have faced the experiences of a refugee, you make a strong effort to understand and stand with our rights which is necessary in a world where laws are not always in our favour. Please continue your enthusiasm and never underestimate the impact you’re making and the power you have in lifting up others.

An inspirational quote from the heart of STAR

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.” ― Albert Pike

Posted by STAR team on 17/06/2020 at 06:48 PM