Wednesday, May 11, 2011

STAR - Student Action for Refugees - Kensington Community Clean Up Day

To those who believe students, refugees and asylum-seekers make bad neighbours, I want to share news of a great project with you. STAR - Student Action for Refugees have been doing some top work with Asylum Link in our area. This is a really fabulous story that I hope you will enjoy. It will surely open a few eyes.

The first I heard of it came in an email from Seena Karimi in April, where she said

"I am a student at the university of Liverpool and member of a community organization known as STAR (student action for refugees) We are having an event called: 'Community Clean up'. It is a collaborative effort between our student organization and Asylum Link. What we will be doing is marching from outside Asylum Link in Overton street, to Kensington Methodist church (which traverses the area our projects cover) and picking up litter along the way. We have been kindly supported by community organizations such as 'Your Place' which will provide us with equipment, and the Kensington neighbourhood team which has advertised the opportunity to the public.

One of our main projects is hosting a weekly conversation class in Asylum Link, which gives Asylum seekers a voice, and aims to improve their ability of spoken English. I believe this has become a project beyond what it set out to be, and we have developed one of the most unique and hopeful relationships in Liverpool. We have made an isolated, often outcast group of people feel wanted and bestowed them with the gift of friendship and unity. One of the people we have influenced, Suren, an asylum seeker from Sri Lanka, has even become inspired to give something back to the community. This idea was his inspiration, and we hope to host many projects together in the future."

I kept in touch with her and after the event she sent me the following information

On one sunny Friday afternoon, asylum seekers and students alike, were on a mission: to clean up the streets of Kensington! This ambitious venture was undertaken by two groups of dissimilar people, Asylum seekers from Asylum Link Merseyside and students from the University of Liverpool. But there is no doubt we all shared the same hopes and dreams that day.


Armed with sparkling blue litter bags and litter pickers, our scheme involved us marching from Edge Hill to Kensington, and collecting as much rubbish as we could on the way. Admittedly it was a bit slow to start off with, and it took some time for us to get used to scooping handfuls of cigarette butts from pub corners, and plucking crisp bags from the grass, but it wasn’t long until we were well on our way. For some, crisp packets and cigarette butts were simply not enough! And braver group members attempted to tackle some of our more formidable opponents, such as dog muck, and abandoned condoms. By the time we reached Kensington, many of us were already in a spirit of healthy competition, in a race between each other to see who could fill more bags of rubbish.

 Looking back, it is remarkable to think how much fun our ‘community clean up day’ actually was. It was a unique social opportunity, where people of all races and walks of life could mingle, make new friends and do something for the community at the same time.

We also learnt a lot more than picking up rubbish that day, and one of our most important lessons was the benefits of teamwork and unity. Whenever our group scattered, we could achieve so little on our own, but when we walked together in one large group, we were able to renovate the bleakest backstreet in one great sweep. Our final challenge was giving the outside of Asylum Link itself a makeover, and by working together as a team it took us less than ten minutes to clean up almost two years worth of rubbish.

The warm smiles we received from senior citizens on buses, and the hopeful eyes of construction workers we talked to, truly made our day worth it. One kind person even stopped his car to offer us a litter picker he had found no use for. Even though we didn’t manage to clean up all the streets of Kensington, we saw that there is definitely the potential for it to happen. That is the message I want to leave you with today: we cannot walk alone. If real change is to take place in our communities it starts with every single one of us."

I really want to highlight the significance of this project, and what it represents for the future of our city. In a city often criticized for its racial tensions, we are evidently disproving this stereotype, Being possibly the most diverse range of people in Liverpool, black/white, rich/poor, young/old we all share the same aspirations for our community, and can unite as one people. It is a sign of hope, unity and change.

I hope you will agree with me that this is a wonderful story and everyone, students, refugees and asylum seekers alike, are to be congratulated for their great efforts, personally I hope to be available for the next event, for surely there will be another one, it sounds too good to miss!

Photos have been supplied by Seena


Anonymous said...

I saw this team walking along Holt Rd and wondered as did the rest of the passing public what they were about....obviously those who were meant to advertise it to the public failed it to the public!

Louise Baldock said...

Yeah, great thanks. I dont think that publicity was their first thought, I think they wanted to make a difference, seeing as how they are amateur volunteers. What a disappointing negative comment, wouldn't it have been better if you had championed their efforts instead of criticising these wonderful people for not shouting loud enough about their efforts? When did you last do something so intensely positive for your neighbourhood? I am distinctly not impressed by your comment!

Louise Baldock said...

And furthermore, the students and the refugees and asylum seekers will be reading this tomorrow, how sad they will be to read your comment. Do you want to try again?

Rory said...

I'm 16 and a young Labour activist and have just started up a new blog. It would be great if you could have a look and I'd really appreciate it if you could feature it on your blogroll. Many thanks:

Anonymous said...

I will try again yes as my comment was so blatantly mis-interpreted.
My comments were in no way directed at the volunteers but rather related to this quote in the blog....

"We have been kindly supported by community organizations such as 'Your Place' which will provide us with equipment, and the Kensington neighbourhood team which has advertised the opportunity to the public."

The volunteers were in fact acknowledged, welcomed and indeed praised for their action by myself and other local residents....however we did wonder who they were and were they where they came from as they appeared such a mis-matched group.

in now way was my original comment aimed at them for such a positive and admirable idea, but perhaps Neighbourhood Services could of made more effort in advertising "the opportunity to the public."

Tim Beaumont said...

Excellent initiative. Total respect to all involved for doing something practical like this.

Louise Baldock said...

Hi Rory, thanks for letting me know about your blog, which is now in my links section, good luck with it, keep on posting, it is good to read what young politicians have to say, as well as the older ones who are a bit more long in the tooth. Good luck with it.

Louise Baldock said...

Thanks for the clarification Anon, I did think I had deleted the first couple of comments through my smart phone but they appear to still be here, so I may as well leave them now.

I dont know how STAR envisaged Neighbourhood Services (a department of the council) promoting their activity, they don't have a marketing budget, and I am not sure whether they wanted to advertise to people who might participate, rather than people who might walk or drive past? I think we shall leave that there unless someone comes back to us from STAR with some clarification. It is notoriously difficult to get publicity for voluntary and community work, given the huge competition, because so much is happening all of the time across the city. It is good that you saw and remarked to yourself on their great work though.