Stockport Refugee Conversation Club, the student-led volunteering project and a branch of the national organisation ‘STAR’ (Student Action for Refugees), has received an unprecedented numbers of volunteers signing up and showing interest in its purpose.
At the end of the last academic year, the project was reportedly struggling to find enough volunteers for its weekly sessions, even though the beneficiaries of the club were increasing weekly. However, after the recent widespread interest in the refugee crisis, sparked by the harrowing, viral image of the drowned three-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi, the club has more volunteers than ever before.
The club focuses on improving the English skills of local refugees and immigrants through loosely themed-based conversation, and provides a safe environment for attendees of the club without judgement or interrogation about their motives and lives. The club runs every Saturday from 12 – 2pm and is co-led by two Project Leaders, who receive external training from STAR, along with training from the Students’ Union. Because of this, no prior training is necessary if students wish to take part.
Isobel Zimŝek, a previous Project Leader of the club, said this about the project and the impact of how the media has been treating the refugee crisis:
“The conversation club, and the wider drop-in day held at the church, is a safe place for people of any nationality or background to come together weekly, to share a meal and to socialise. No matter the length of their stay, which can be more permanent than people imagine, we hope that those who attend feel welcomed and able to become part of the community created by the club.
“I feel that one of the most important aspects of a volunteers’s role is to demonstrate, to those who attend, that people in our society do actively want to interact with them and to help them, and in many cases, are willing to give up their time to do so. This has always seemed crucial to me, because I believe that all people are human and should be treated as such—something that sounds simple and blatant, but seems to have been neglected in recent media reports.”
If you would like to volunteer, sign up directly through the volunteering portal on the Students’ Union’s website.