#DMUglobal students inspired by working with refugees in Berlin

Students from De Montfort University (DMU) say they are determined to look at ways to help the migrant population in Leicester, after an inspirational week working with refugees in the German capital of Berlin.

The 16 students travelled to Berlin last week to work with refugees and refugee help groups as part of a joint project between the pioneering #DMUglobal and DMU Square Mile schemes.

#DMUglobal was set up two years ago by DMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard in order to offer students international experiences which enrich their studies, broaden cultural horizons and help them develop key skills for employment.

DMU Square Mile has been running at the university for five years and draws on the skills and knowledge of students and academics to help the community.

While in Berlin, the students met and talked with refugees about their experiences, helped created clothing parcels for 150 families and visited a refugee café Meet ‘n’ Eat to prepare and serve food to the community.

They also combined their refugee work with DMU’s #LoveInternational event in Berlin. Professor Dominic Shellard spoke to an audience in the German capital as part of a Europe-wide campaign to reassure EU students that they are still welcome at DMU and other British universities.

The students said their trip was an incredible experience that has motivated them to look at new ways to care for people in similar situations in Leicester.

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Last year Chancellor Angela Merkel made the decision to open the door to refugees fleeing war and turmoil in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands have made their way to Berlin meaning volunteer work is vital to help refugees integrate more in their new society.

Annabell Gast, a German who is studying a PhD at DMU and is a part-time lecturer, said: “As a German I had heard a lot about the refugees arriving but living in the UK meant I was quite far away from it all.

“Just to be able to see what was happening with my own eyes and see the conditions the refugees are living in has given me a better understanding of what is going right but also what is going wrong in Germany. It has certainly broadened my horizons and makes me want to work more with refugees in Leicester.”

Nabeelah Ahmed Omarjee, who is studying Psychology, said: “It was a fabulous experience and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“Working as a volunteer was fantastic. Despite the language barriers we were all able to communicate and the happy faces we saw on the children made it such a fulfilling experience. I definitely want to get more involved in the work in Leicester and it has certainly helped me think about my career. I would like to look at support work and counselling when I graduate.”


Piyush Goraniya added: “I have already started sending out emails to people to see what can be done to raise awareness about refugees.

"Visiting the refugees made a huge difference to my perception of what I thought the crisis was about and what it is actually about.

“As soon as we walked into these places the children’s faces brought a smile to my face. They were so happy to see that someone cared about them and wanted to help.”

Bethan Appleby, who is studying Fine Art, said she wants to auction off her art work to raise money for refugees.

She said: “It was a life-changing experience to see what little they have compared to us. Seeing the faces on the refugees when we were volunteering made me realise how, if everyone does a little bit extra for them, it can make a huge difference to their lives. You may not have anything physical to give but your company makes a difference too.”

Mark Charlton, DMU’s Head of Public Engagement, who organised the refugee visits, said: “The students not only made a difference to the refugees but the refugees made a difference to our students. By offering a helping hand the students saw how little the refugees have but also how determined they are to learn and contribute to society. It was a real eye-opener.

“I am incredibly proud of the work our students did and of course the great thing is they now want to make a difference to refugees’ lives in Leicester.”

Posted on: Tuesday 06 September 2016

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