Students head to Berlin to work with refugees

Refugees living in Berlin will be telling their stories to students as De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) continues its work with the United Nations’ #JoinTogether campaign.

DMU has been asked by the UN to take the lead in developing a global network of universities and students keen to help refugees, asylum seekers and migrants in their communities.  

Berlin refugee pic

Next week, a group of more than 20 students head to Berlin with #DMUlocal and #DMUglobal where they will be working with partner universities and seeing how organisations, people and institutions are working to support refugees.

Among the activities planned are helping at charities running workshops for refugee families, discussing free law clinics run by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin for refugees and migrants, and meeting teams who help refugees settle in to Berlin.

A special event on Thursday created for the DMU visit will introduce students to many of the organisations working to support refugees in Berlin. It will include presentations, discussion groups between students, discussion panels, refugees and support workers followed by food and live music.

Students with Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard during last year's visit to Berlin

They will also have the opportunity to see a special photography exhibition by artist Heike Steinweg, called I Never Said Goodbye: Women In Exile, which features women refugees who have made their home in Germany.

Mark Charlton, Head of Public Engagement at DMU, said: “We have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm from students about supporting our work with refugees. We’re sure that this visit will be an eye-opener for many students but it will also be an incredibly rewarding experience.

“Above all, we hope to work with partners and take away lessons which can help us have even more of an impact in our work with refugees in Leicester.”

Throughout the visit, students will be sharing their experiences through blogging, vlogging, podcasting or photography.

Speech and Language Therapy student Sumayyah Bapu helped teach English to Syrian children in her home town of Nuneaton to help them before they started school. She said: “I’m really looking forward to it,” she said. “I’m particularly interested in seeing the work they do with children and how they are able to communicate when there is a language barrier.”

Vikesh Mistry, final-year Business, Entrepreneurship and Innovation student, has been a regular volunteer with #DMUlocal projects and wanted to extend his volunteering experience in Berlin.

He said: “I think this trip will be a lot different to the volunteering I have done before. This is about humanity, seeing what can be done to help others. I think we all need to ask, ‘what can I do with my time that can make a difference?’ It is so rewarding.”

DMU UN pic
The launch of DMU and the United Nations' #JoinTogether campaign, in New York

#DMUlocal has worked with refugees to put together a list of projects that students can volunteer for. They are:

•    Interviewing refugees and their families for the Share My Story project, which will create an oral history archive of the different experiences of refugees
•    Nurturing new talent by volunteering at #DMUlocal’s refugee art club
•    Fundraising to support refugee scholars at DMU
•    Mentoring – to provide educational support for young people who arrived in the UK
•    Join a DMU conference to discuss refugee and people trafficking issues on May 18
•    Suggesting a pitch for a project to the #DMUlocal team
•    Volunteering at a new Get Together café being run by #DMUlocal
•    Becoming a music mentor

This year DMU was made a member of the United Nations' Academic Impact (UNAI) programme – one of the world's largest higher education networks. The UNAI, which has more than 1,000 members, aligns higher education institutions with the goals and mandates pursued by the UN. These include promotion and protection of human rights, access to education, sustainability and conflict resolution.

Posted on Friday 30th March 2018

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