Students from De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have helped refugees by volunteering at a shelter in New York.
Nearly two dozen students have travelled to the Big Apple with #DMUlocal to work with refugees in the city and will attend a special Chat Series event at the United Nations headquarters on Tuesday.
As part of the United Nations' #JoinTogether campaign, DMU has been asked by the UN to take a lead in engaging universities across the world to find ways of successfully integrating refugees into communities, while spreading messages of tolerance and understanding.
On Sunday (25 February) the students visited a shelter based at St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Harlem where they helped to clean the kitchen and tidy the communal area.
They also received an eye opening talk from the shelter’s director who outlined the difficulties faced by refugees in the USA and summarised the invaluable support that this shelter provides to asylum seekers.
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Laura Toher-Hindle, a second year Law and Criminal Justice LLB student, was pleased to be able to play a part in supporting the shelter.
She said: “We helped to clean the kitchen and communal areas so that people can come and get on with their day-to-day activities and not have to worry about the external things that are going on. We did our best to make our mark here.”
The director of the shelter explained that 30,000 asylum seekers come to New York every year, and although this shelter can only help seven people at a time, they provide a safe place to sleep, recover, use the kitchen and access toilet and shower facilities.
The shelter, which is open to male asylum seekers and is the only one of its kind in the city to recognise the unique situation and needs of refugees, is open 365 days a year and is run largely by volunteers.
Third year Film Studies and Media student George Coyle believes the insights provided by Marianne, the director of the shelter, and Sebastian, a college student who spends his nights volunteering there, were just as valuable as the opportunity to help clean the kitchen.
“It was really, really inspiring,” he said. “It’s taught me so much about the different conditions people are living in in Harlem right now and the different situations people find themselves in.
“I think the work that they are doing for migrants is really amazing. As much as they can only fit in a small group of people, it's pretty incredible that a group of people like this are coming together and giving people shelter and warmth. I think it's truly amazing.”
During their time in New York the students will also volunteer at Catholic Charities Community Services, where they will provide hands-on support to refugees, including practicing mock interviews with asylum seekers.
Two students, Hamdallat Abdulsalam and George Coyle, will join DMU’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard in making presentations as part of a chat series at the UN on Tuesday. The event will focus on developing a positive attitude to migration and can be watched live on DMU’s Facebook page from 7.30pm UK time.
Posted on Sunday 25th February 2018