My name is Charlotte and I am the current Director of the Refugee Project for ELSA Nottingham. The RP has been the highlight of my time at university so I am incredibly excited to be writing this for you all today!
I discovered the Refugee Project in my first year at university when I found an email asking for volunteers to teach English to refugees. Joining the RP gave me so many things I was missing after my year teaching abroad: community, a chance to make a difference and so much joy! This amazing experience encouraged me to apply to be on the Refugee Project Committee (RPC) so in my second year I was part of the RPC under our wonderful VP for Seminars + Conferences, Diarmaid. This year I’m honoured to be filling his place as Director and continuing on with the amazing work the RP does.
‘But what exactly is the Refugee Project, Charlotte?’ I hear you ask. Well, the Nottingham RP has been running for five years now and encompasses volunteering opportunities, education and fundraising in our local community. This is all to provide students with a chance to help people from all over the world looking to integrate and take part in society. Our aim is to help these people navigate an unfamiliar, and often confusing system. We work with adults from all areas who have suffered adversities and overcome multiple obstacles to reach this far. In addition, we collaborate with other refugee and migration based societies in university for fundraising events and to spread awareness of the issues refugees and asylum seekers face.
So, welcome to this behind the scenes of how our Refugee Project runs!
I work with a fantastic team made up of Daisy (our Access English co-ordinator) and Lidia (our Belong co-ordinator). Together we make up the RPC! The girls look after our core projects which consist of Access which focuses on teaching English and Belong which focuses on Welfare Support.
To give a brief description of our projects, Access sees volunteers helping refugees and asylum seekers to enhance their English skills. We have multiple opportunities within Access this year including online teaching and Befriending. This is a project we are re-introducing which allows small groups of volunteers to be paired with refugees and asylum seekers in the local area, helping with their integration into the commuting and giving real-life English practice. Our second project, Belong, allows volunteers to gain experience working on real-life cases. Our volunteers are trained by the charity to give them all the necessary skills used to aid them with the different cultures and duties they work with. These duties include making applications for universal credit, sorting out debt, job applications and more. Both these projects have a very real and important impact in the community. The family vibe we have in the RP is so vital to our work and truly what enables us to make stronger connections both within our group of 16 brilliant volunteers and also in the local community.
Of course, the RP has seen some massive changes recently due to the current craziness of the world but many of these have ended up being very positive for us. I’m very happy to say we’ve expanded our volunteer base to include not only law but a more diverse range of students. We’ve had to adapt to allow our projects to continue to run through the pandemic and whilst they do look a little different this in turn has allowed us to be more flexible. Some of our volunteers who are not physically in Nottingham, or even in the UK, have still been able to participate through online volunteering. We’ve been busy planning for the International Conference on Refugee Law with ELSA UK, set to happen once again this February (so keep your eyes peeled for more information on that!). We’ve also re-introduced Befriending which we are hopeful will be running after Christmas and we have many more exciting plans coming, such as our Refugee Inspo Instagram series!
Hopefully this has shown you that the RP is a very busy but truly inspiring project. Personally, it has consistently highlighted to me that people’s positive actions, no matter how big or small, do make a difference. I would like to end this by saying a big thank you for taking the time to get to know a little bit about us.
If you want to see even more about the Notts RP then come follow us on social media! You can find us on Instagram or Facebook by searching ‘Nottingham Refugee Project’. Finally, I currently also work with Diarmaid helping other local groups to set up Refugee Projects so, if anyone would like to contact me to discuss either the Notts RP or the possibility of setting up your own RP (which I hope you do!) then I can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lots of hugs and ELSA love to you all,
Charlotte Springham is a third and final year LLB Law student at the University of Nottingham. She is the Director of the Refugee Project at ELSA Nottingham and ELSA UK. Charlotte has been working with the Project for two years now, having started as a volunteer at a local refugee charity.