Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Heart of STAR 1994 - Elly Hargreave

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.

Elly Hargreave

1994 – 2000
Founding committee member of Nottingham, the first-ever STAR group
Founder & CEO of the national charity & started the first 25 STAR groups
Current job: Captain at Pedal People – Brighton charity providing cycling adventures to elders in care homes & full-time solo parent to a young teen son.

How and why did you get involved in STAR?

I was helping on a different stall next to the one Andy Davies was running to engage people in the idea of setting up a ‘STAR group’. He had a UNHCR poster ‘Who is the refugee’? There were rows of Lego people in different clothing – all uniform as people but individualised and with different items in their hands. It drew me in. As a 19-year-old social policy undergraduate I thought “why don’t I know about refugees?” I wanted to help raise awareness and support refugees locally in the city that I was now calling home.

What impact did you see STAR have on your community?

a. At university
We were the first group so very ‘novel’ really. Welcomed by the students and the Student Union we found people were keen to get involved and many recognised our ‘back of toilet door campaign’ entitled ’10 things you should know about a refugee’ (that’s what we did before social media folks – we read the back of toilet doors, a lot!) We were pretty inexperienced but worked at establishing local links and I remember being constantly amazed at how much people wanted to work with us and support us. It was exciting and hard work!

There was only one no longer active organisation working with refugees in the city then – so we were really warmly welcomed. The first refugee I knowingly met was a former lecturer in his home country. He got in touch having seen our posters and we met him one evening in a pub. We listened to his story and ideas. It really stayed with me. I remember him and remember my 19-year-old self clearly thinking at the time ‘if more people met and talked with refugees things would be much better’. Quite a young man in his early 30s his story of isolation and missing his family (his wife and daughter could not join him and he’d not seen them in several years) was shocking and incredibly sad. I wanted to campaign to change our asylum system to be more humane and have faster, better asylum application processes as a result. I don’t think you forget the first time you hear someone’s story of their journey to and of being a refugee.

What is your favourite thing about STAR?

Offering students the chance to get involved and make a difference – whether that be attending a meeting to learn more or actively campaigning or volunteering with and for refugees.

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

I hope ‘endless’. I have many good friends made through STAR. Working with Micky (Nottingham STAR), Stella (Edinburgh STAR) and Ruth (first staff team & CEO after me) has had the most significant positive impact on my life and work. STAR made me want to become a human rights campaigner. I went on to do that with my first job with Amnesty International, working in refugee camps in Nepal and then on to work for women, children, and detained asylum seeker rights’ as well as later housing, HIV, health, and then communications, journalism, and campaigning. As a result of my work at STAR, I was asked to join The Body Shop International to develop their first-ever shop-window campaign to support refugee rights. I was then taken on to be their Global Human Rights Campaigns Manager. STAR motivated me to work for people and change for the better. It led to many opportunities for friendship, work and positively supporting people with a range of challenges in life.

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

Thank you for your time and support of STAR! You are what makes the difference. Whether it be one encounter where you can offer support or many – your interest, empathy, passion, and care will help improve the understanding and support of refugees.

An inspirational quote from the heart of STAR

Be the change you want to see.

Posted by STAR team on 17/06/2020 at 05:36 PM