'Before we are migrants we are humans' - Halima recounts her experience at the United Nations

On Thursday June 7, De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) students will return to the United Nations in New York for the next part of DMU's involvement in the Together campaign to assist refugees and migrants. A group of students also went to the UN in February, and in the below blog post third-year Psychology student Halima Abowath recounts her experience in the Big Apple...

Halima

#JoinTogether. ‘What is that?’ you might be asking yourselves. Well it is a campaign surrounding the refugee and migrant crisis. The campaign aims to end the stigmatisation, discrimination, stereotypes and all negative views surrounding refugees, migrants and asylum seekers. Turn the view of these individuals into positive attitudes. There is a lot of good in the world and if we all unite together, Join Together, we can make this change possible. We can break the negative views and show the world these people that are displaced from their homes are regular humans just like me and you. It wasn't their choice to move and in many cases they were forced out of their homes.

I can't write this post without mentioning the Gandhi Global Family (GGF). De Montfort University has a link to this organisation as the Vice-Chancellor of De Montfort University, Professor Dominic Shellard, is a United Nations delegate for this non-governmental organisation. This connection has allowed for the university to be involved in such a great campaign with the U.N. The Vice President of the GGF called us, the 17 students that went on the trip, 'Young Gandhians’. We must be the change we wish to see in the world.

The main purpose of this trip to New York was to attend a United Nations chat series event where we discussed the campaign and how we could all work together and create positive attitudes. Before the event we had a meeting with the Vice-Chancellor of De Montfort University. None of us had attended a U.N. event such as this, so he provided us with an insight into what to expect. He also gave us facts and figures about the refugee crisis.

68 million people had been displaced across the globe. The largest number of displaced people since World War 2! 22.5 million of these are refugees with over half being under the age of 18. 9/10 of these children are unaccompanied! Most of these refugees come from Syria, Afghanistan and Southern Sudan.

The Vice-Chancellor mentioned how he believes #JoinTogether is a core value of the university. I am glad he thinks this, because I agree with him. My University has so many opportunities to volunteer and support different people and refugees through DMU Square Mile.

At the event students from Mater Dei Prep, A Catholic Preparatory School, part of a Pathways to Peace group in New Jersey, also joined us. The event was led by two DMU students Hamdallat Abdulsalam and George Coyle, mediated by the Vice-Chancellor.

During the event the speakers discussed what it was that inspired them to get involved with the campaign, what they were going to do to implement changes and change views along with what we as individuals can do to make a change. The biggest thing we can do to raise awareness for the campaign is to use social media, tweet, snap and share on Instagram.

There were so many excellent points and quotes that were made, one that really stood out to me was; ‘before we are migrants, we are humans’. This should be plastered across walls, billboards and social media, to make people realise we are all the same; human beings. At the end of the discussion we - the audience - had the chance to ask questions or share our views. It was a greatly humbling and thought-provoking discussion. It has motivated me to get involved a lot more and make a change.

UN students

Before the event we volunteered with two organisations. We went to St Mary’s Episcopal Church, where they have a refugee resettlement centre. At first, I thought ‘gross, I have to deep clean a kitchen!’ But once I finished, I think we all felt a great deal of happiness and satisfaction. This small act made such a big difference to the lives of those sheltered and those who run the shelter. It meant they had one less thing to worry about.

We also volunteered at the Catholic Charities Centre to help refugees with interview skills. We conducted mock interviews and gave them feedback. Often the individuals I had the opportunity to help would say to me at the start 'I'm sorry my English is not very good'. At the end of the interview I told them their English was fine. I was comfortably able to understand what they were saying. This small statement bought such a big smile to their face. 

A lesson I've learnt from the campaign is actions over words. With a little bit of time, a little bit of energy and a little bit of knowledge, we can all help migrants and teach them some valuable skills. It is all very well and good raising awareness about the campaign, but we need to get involved with activities to make a difference.

Find out ways in which you can help and support local refugees in your community, make a real change, before we are migrants, we are humans, we must all remember this and #JoinTogether! If you've read this far, I have one favour to ask, if you could all tweet and use the hashtag #JoinTogether, go out there and make change happen! 

Posted on Thursday 24th May 2018

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