Newcastle University’s Student Union is in the running for a national award for a project that helps asylum seekers and refugees in the city. The Times Higher Education Awards (THE Awards) occur annually, and Newcastle has been shortlisted in two categories: the International Impact Award and the Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community. The latter will be awarded to those who have made “the most imaginative attempt to aid the wider community socially, culturally or economically”.
“Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.” This Roald Dahl quote was used as a mission statement for North East Solidarity and Teaching (N.E.S.T), a project that was undertaken to educate and empower the North East’s refugee population.
Managed by Go Volunteer, the project was established in 2016 and offered free English lessons to refugees in the North East region. This enables them, the N.E.S.T website states, “to gain necessary language qualifications required to gain employment in the UK. Boosting their confidence empowers them to integrate themselves into the local community, reducing the stigma and prejudice from existing residents.” As it has developed, the project has expanded to provide both creative and STEM classes with the aim of improving people’s futures.
N.E.S.T was formed when six students travelled to Gateshead once a week to teach English to just ten refugees. Now, around one hundred refugees and asylum seekers attend the classes regularly, delivered by over three hundred Newcastle University students who have volunteered. Around £32,000 of external funding was secured in the last year to support the project.
NUSU are reportedly “over the moon” to be included in the THE Awards, which, according to THE’s website, as regarded as the Oscar’s of the higher education sector. Katie Blundell, NUSU’s Volunteer Development and Employability Manager, says: “It is a testament to the dedication of our students and staff. At NUSU we pride ourselves on contributing to our students’ personal development and helping them make the most of their time at Newcastle University. N.E.S.T is an incredible example of the value and impact our students have on the local community and improving the lives of others.”