The LSE SU ‘Student Action for Refugees’ (STAR) is a student group within a national network, dedicated to improving the lives of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK. Charlotte Culley, the former president of LSE STAR, was kind enough to answer a couple of questions about the society and share her experience.
What were the main aims and activities of STAR this year?
“The main aims of LSESU STAR this year were campaigning, volunteering and education. We have focused on the ‘Families Together Campaign’, which seeks to expand the UK’s refugee family reunion rules, ensuring that refugees are able to sponsor a wider range of family members to join them in this country. We have organised a number of online panel events, including one highlighting the Greek asylum system and another exploring the impact that the pandemic has had upon the process of seeking asylum and the support and services available for asylum seekers and refugees. We were really excited to be able to get our volunteering project up and running in January. Through a partnership with English for Action we held online ‘Conversation Clubs’, which involved regular discussions and activities to help our attendees improve their confidence speaking English. We were also able to introduce the LSE community to volunteering opportunities through a volunteering fair we ran in collaboration with KCL and UCL STAR, which was attended by a wide range of charities who aim to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers within the London community.”
Why did you decide to join STAR and why should other people join next year?
“I have been a member of STAR since my first year because I was drawn to the valuable work that they do and the supportive and friendly community within the society. Before joining the society I didn’t have much knowledge about the UK asylum system and the challenges that refugees and asylum seekers face, but quickly realised that the aims and activities of STAR were vitally important. Over the three years I have been a STAR member I have learnt so much, met many fantastic and like-minded people and participated in events and campaigns that I feel have contributed towards making this country a more welcoming place for refugees and asylum seekers.
The society has always been highly active within the LSE community and is always seeking new members and new ideas to help to make a difference on both a national and local community level. Through becoming a member of a university STAR you also become part a wider community, as we are all united by the STAR National charity, which allows large scale collaborations and a chance to meet a wide range of people from across the country, all working towards the same goals. STAR has been an integral and memorable part of my university experience; we have done everything from fundraising rave events to running 5k in ridiculous outfits and attending table tennis socials. If you are looking to be part of a dedicated and supportive society that is focused on making a difference within the community, then I would strongly encourage you to join STAR next year!”
What has been your favourite STAR event?
“There have been moments from each of my years as a STAR member that have really stood out. During my first year as a STAR member I was a part of the ‘Refugee Week Committee’. This is a week that the society dedicates to campaigning, fundraising and holding a range of events on campus. After all of the organisation and the hours spent with cupcakes outside of the SU it was great to see our efforts pay off with a fantastic student engagement and the achievement of our fundraising goals. I am really looking forward to seeing Refugee Week return next year!
During my second year at STAR I really enjoyed volunteering at the organisation Salusbury World, which was introduced to me as part of a STAR volunteering event. Before the pandemic I volunteered as a school mentor with children from a refugee background, focusing on improving pupils’ confidence and aiding one of the mentees with their preparation for GCSE English. One of the fantastic things about being part of STAR is the opportunities it offers with partnership organisations, with STAR members taking part in projects and volunteering activities throughout London.
The role of President this year has also been a really memorable experience and I am really proud of the whole committee for pulling together and having a successful year despite the challenges. It was particularly fantastic to end our year of events with a collaboration with Grimshaw Society, with an event exploring the Greek Asylum System that involved representatives from SolidariTee and Refugees International. I am sad that my time at STAR has come to end but I look forward to seeing the amazing things that next year’s committee will achieve!”
Interested in joining? Learn more about LSESU Student Action for Refugees (STAR)!