Thirteen law students from Brunel University London have given their time and expertise, and spent fundraised money, to help refugees and unaccompanied minors in Athens integrate into Greek society.
The week-long educational volunteering experience was the sixth successful instalment of the Brunel Law Refugee Project: an initiative first run in 2015 by Professor Alexandra Xanthaki, a leading expert of minority and migration rights in international law, in response to the unfolding European refugee crisis.
During this December's trip, the undergraduates visited the Office of the Greek Ombudsman for Human Rights to gain a greater understanding of the current legal challenges for asylum-seekers in Greece, and to help translate documentation into various languages.
The students donated considerable time to the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Faros, giving hands-on support to unaccompanied minors at the family centre, encompassing play, education and listening to their stories. Using money they had fundraised, the students purchased a projector, a printer and a smart TV for the centre, gave the children jumpers – and treated them to a cinema night and party. The students also worked with the Network for Children’s Rights, supporting their moveable library, creche activities and the production and distribution of a newspaper created by children for children.
The legacy of the five previous visits was evident. Equipment donated by former students, including laptops and a football table, is still in use at Faros, and useful; bilingual books donated to the Network for the Rights of the Child continue to be read. But Brunel has also built up a reputation. Prof Xanthaki commented: "The fact that these are our specific students, who can speak Arabic, who know Farsi, who have spent time with other families in care, make amazingly helpful volunteer teams.
"Another university would not have been able to make such tangible contribution. The Ombudsman staff have been saying to us that the reason we like Brunel is, at least in part, because of the specific characteristics of Brunel students: their backgrounds, their experiences, and their focus on justice issues."
For the students, the experience was invaluable. "Being able to help refugees who have left all their family, friends and belongings behind was very inspiring and gave me a strong sense of purpose," said Elsa Baudart, a final-year law undergraduate. "I now feel more grateful for the life I live and have more motivation to carry on the volunteering work we started in Athens."
Back row, left to right: Adith Zafar, Dan Birca, Kishan Shah, Marina Azar, Talayeh Tarighi, Özlem Akyol, India Creed, Shivani Mehta, Tosin Shonubi
Front row, left to right: Jenifer Adesina, Elsa Baudart, Professor Alexandra Xanthaki, Anjali Derashri, Safiya Hussain.
The trip was coordinated by Brunel Law School and Brunel Volunteers, the University's 2,000-strong network of philanthropic students, and was fundraised through Brunel’s Development and Alumni Relations Office.
Find out more about undergraduate law programmes at Brunel University London.
Joe Buchanunn, Media Relations
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