Raising awareness about the refugee crisis: An interview with ‘SolidariTee’ at Lancs Uni
‘SolidariTee is the largest student-led charity in the UK, supporting the international assistance of refugees and asylum seekers’
Lancaster University has a myriad of many different societies. From sports societies to the gin society, there are so many ways students can get involved with different communities and meet new people, even within current times where socialising is pretty much non-existent.
Enter “SolidariTee”, a student-led charity at Lancs uni which also operates within 50 universities across the country. Joining charity organisations at uni is not only rewarding but also a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded students. But many students may not know about SolidariTee; therefore, we have gathered all the information you’ll need to know about this charity and how to get involved.
‘SolidariTee is committed to making sustainable change in the refugee crisis’
We asked SolidariTee why this charity was initially created. It was founded by Tiara Sahar Ataii, a third-year Cambridge student in 2017, who wanted to raise funds for the refugee crisis and increase awareness of the cause after volunteering as a translator and interpreter in Greece. Amidst her studies, she used her student loan to buy and print over 600 t-shirts or “SolidariTees” which brought this charity to light.
Vanessa, the Publicity Officer for SolidariTee at Lancaster University, told us that “SolidariTee is the largest student-led charity in the UK, supporting the international assistance of refugees and asylum seekers. SolidariTee is committed to making sustainable change in the refugee crisis through raising both awareness and funds… and tackling the many myths and misinformation that surround the refugee crisis.”
Regarding how they raise money, Vanessa said: “The funds are primarily raised through the selling of the ‘SolidariTee’, which are ethically manufactured and 100% organic t-shirts. The t-shirts cost £12 with £8 going directly to legal aid NGO’s in Greece like ASF France, Legal Centre Levos, and Fenix.”
‘This is SolidariTee’s first year at Lancaster, and it is already 8 members strong’
When asked about how SolidariTee links to Lancaster University, Vanessa explained that “Lancaster is both a university town and a place that has a strong community of refugees and asylum seekers, it is an ideal place for SolidariTee to run! SolidariTee is running at every other top university, so it was long overdue for it to come to Lancaster.”
The charity is growing in members, Vanessa continued: “This is SolidariTee’s first year at Lancaster, and it is already eight members strong. Since the start of term in October, the team at Lancaster has already sold over 30 t-shirts and is planning to sell about 200 by the end of the year.”
‘We are hoping to run a number of fundraisers and guest speaker events throughout the year’
There are many ways for Lancaster students to get involved with SolidariTee. One way to be a part of the charity is by becoming a SolidariTee regional representative. Vanessa told us that “A regional rep helps to sell t-shirts, fundraise and get involved in organising various other events ranging from talks and panel discussions to virtual pub quizzes.
“If you are too busy to volunteer, you can help by attending events. We are hoping to run a number of fundraisers and guest speaker events throughout the year.”
Another way to show support is by buying a SolidariTee t-shirt. This raises funds and visually promotes the charity and its work for refugees and asylum seekers. Vanessa said: “You can either buy a t-shirt from one of the Lancaster SolidariTee reps or online on our SolidariTee website! So, no matter your schedule, there are many ways for you to get involved with SolidariTee.”
‘Many refugees and asylum seekers are still living in dangerous and over-crowded refugee camps’
We asked SolidariTee why it is important for students to show their support. While in the UK, it is tough to comprehend the refugee crisis while tackling our own challenges within the pandemic. But Vanessa explains why the refugee crisis in Greece is important to cause to support.
Vanessa told us: “Many refugees and asylum seekers are still living in dangerous and over-crowded refugee camps. These dangerous conditions can easily be demonstrated through the recent fires in Moria Camp in Lesvos, which left over 13,000 people without shelter.
“Refugees in Greece today will have to live in these inhumane conditions, frequently for months or even years, waiting for an interview that examines their right to be granted asylum. While everyone can seek asylum legally, the process is highly complex, which combined with legal aid being so under-funded results in thousands of refugees entering this process without any legal guidance.
“Thus, many people face deportations that are often unjustified. So, the only way for refugees to truly escape this collapsing cycle and begin prosperous lives is by accessing legal support; this is where SolidariTee comes in. Our campaign gets refugees out of camps by offering grants to NGOs that provide legal aid on the ground in Greece.”
‘We hope to run a number of fundraising and guest-speaker events over the term’
The pandemic has meant that many charities have had to adapt the way they fundraise and spread awareness. But this has not stopped SolidariTee as they have plans to host many different fundraisers over the term.
Vanessa said: “We hope to run a number of fundraising and guest-speaker events over the term, including panel discussions, raffles, quizzes and competitions!”