Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Heart of STAR 1999 - Leila Zadeh

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.

Leila Zadeh

1999 – 2000 at Birmingham STAR & 2003 – 2004 at Essex STAR
Current job: Executive Director of UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group (UKLGIG)

How and why did you get involved in STAR?

In fresher’s week at the University of Birmingham, I signed up to loads of societies on all kinds of issues. STAR is the society I got most involved with. At the first meeting, Elly Hargreave was there from STAR’s London office and was looking for people to set the society up. I put myself forward immediately, as it was exciting to get involved with a brand-new student group and take on a bit of responsibility. Together with one other person, we got STAR registered as a society with the student union. We then formed a committee, and the rest is history.

What impact did you see STAR have on your community:

a. At university
We raised a lot of awareness. At that time, many students didn’t know there were refugees in Birmingham, let alone the challenges that people seeking asylum face. We did various campaign actions on campus and in the city.

b. Locally
We started being contacted by various charities operating in Birmingham that were looking for volunteers or wanted to work with us. The Red Cross, Save the Children, Oxfam and a local befriending scheme were amongst the ones that got in touch.

What is your favourite thing about STAR?

I loved all the different things you could do and ways to get involved. With STAR, you could work with refugees or people seeking asylum directly, get involved with campaigning, or do both. When I started studying at the University of Essex, I became a regional representative, helping STAR groups in East Anglia. There are so many ways of making an impact – either with one individual or changing the systems around us.

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

Thanks to STAR, my first full-time job was with people seeking asylum. I’ve worked in other sectors since then, but three years ago I returned to working with people seeking asylum when I became the executive director of the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group. STAR launched my career and the passion it ignited in me for the rights of refugees never went away.

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

Make the most of it! I learnt so much through STAR, met so many incredible people and made such good friends.

An inspirational quote from the heart of STAR

“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us.” Marsha P Johnson

Posted by STAR team on 17/06/2020 at 06:37 PM