Refugee Support Programme – ‘Friendly faces make all the difference’

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DMU Students presented their personal experience as volunteers for the Square Mile Refugee Support Programme. The Refugee Support Programme started in November 2015 and was created to welcome and provide ongoing support to refugees. The project currently works in partnership with the Race Equality Centre, Leicester City ASSIST Practice – a local GP in the city centre and After 18 – the charity located in St Martins House.

The project is led by Square Mile Projects and Outreach coordinator, Amir Mahmood. Amir has been working with the student volunteers on a weekly basis and explains that the project is beneficial for all involved.

He said: “The project provides students with a unique opportunity to interact with refugees and asylum seekers. The student interaction enables the refuges to gain vital life skills that will propel their integration within society. The students have been exceptionally committed and have gone above and beyond their duties as volunteers to deliver a life-changing service.”photo 2 (2)

During the presentations a range of student volunteers described their roles and personal experiences from engaging with the project.

DMU Media and Communications student, Abeer Alsaiari, attends the Race Equality Centre and helps out with IT related skills which range from Microsoft office to online job applications.

She said: “We focus on helping refuges with their IT skills and improving their English language skills. We also help with their CV’s and assist with seeking employment as form filling can be incredibly overwhelming. I am very happy with the work we do. I am helping others, but at the same time I am enhancing my personal communication skills. I believe that it is our humanitarian mission as students of DMU to help refugees.”

Tabassuma Akramul, is a second year DMU medical student and volunteers at Leicester City ASSIST Practice, a local GP in the city centre. She explained how the programme is enhancing her studies and communication skills.

She said: “As a medical student this project means a lot to me. Volunteering at the ASSIST practice allows me to take the pressure off receptionists by providing one-to-one sessions and helping out with form filling processes. It is great to be in a medical environment whilst studying the field at the same time.”

A group of DMU students, Alicephoto 1 Davis, Amy Katiti, Dilraj Kaur and Alan Loyalalleon all volunteer weekly at the After 18 Charity situated in St Martins House. Together, the students focus on various aspects of education whilst offering a familiar and friendly face for refugees to engage with.

DMU Law student, Alice Davis, describes how inspirational she finds volunteering with refugees and explains how she is trying to make the process of accessing higher education an easier task for the refugees.

She said: “After 18 allows refugees to integrate into society. I help  individuals with access to higher education with the aim of making the process a lot easier. Refugees haven’t  had the opportunities that many of us have been fortune to experience, yet their passion & drive is incredible. They are so inspirational. Recently, they’ve been waiting for us to finish university because they look forward to seeing a friendly face.”photo 3

DMU Pharmacy student, Amy Katiti, utilises her studies to share her knowledge on science based subjects. Amy has took motivation from the refugees positive outlook on life to dream big about her own personal ambitions.

She said: “I work one-to-one with refugees on chemistry and biology. They have had to adapt to a new environment and a new education system. I’m trying to help them as much as I can to make sure they feel as comfortable as possible. As a group we’ve helped them, but they’ve helped us with our own personal skills. I have found people with great ambitions for life and it has helped me think big about my own ambitions.”

DMU Accounting Finance student, Alan Loyalalleon, explains how the programme and their volunteering presence is about making the sessions enjoyable and fun at the same time as ensuring the individuals are learning valuable skills.

He said: “I volunteephoto 4r my support to two boys, which means our conversations usually turn to the topic of football a lot of the time. We finish our maths work then check out the latest football scores. I think it’s important to mix their learning experience with their personal interests.”

“I really enjoy being able to watch their confidence grow. It’s amazing to see the progression of their individual journey’s and watch them develop each week.”

Ruth Sinhal, a teacher from Glebelands Primary School in Beaumont Leys has created Leicester Schools Welcome Refugees project. Ruth aims to get all schools in Leicester, and potentially Leicestershire, to come together and join her cause to ensure refugees feel welcomed and supported.

She said“My aim is to get all the schools in Leicester to pledge support and welcome refugees. After a lot if persistence, I now have 27 schools on board.”

“It’s really nice to see sphoto 5o many DMU students doing so much for others!”

“DMU Square Mile’s Refugee Support Programme is a great long term project that I am looking forward to working in partnership with. We have decided that students who want to help out in schools can become ambassadors for the project. The student ambassadors will enable the project to grow from strength to strength. Together, I want to show that Leicester welcomes refugees.”

The Refugee Support Programme is an ongoing Square Mile project. There are many ways that you can get involved and offer your support. If you would like to get involved or learn more about the programme, then please email Square Mile Team Member: Amir Mahmood.