All through last week, there was one permanent fixture outside the LSE Student’s Union building — the LSESU Amnesty International Booth. At first glance, you’d think that it was just another other booth set up outside the Saw Swee Hock building, similar to the countless others there almost everyday. It certainly featured the same two elements integral to all booths at the LSE — eager, smiling people manning the stall, and an array of items arranged enticingly on its surface. Nevertheless, if at this time of year the familiar sight of booths on campus had not deterred you from approaching this one, you would’ve realised what its distinguishing factor was. It was that you walked away having changed a life. You walked away feeling better about yourself. You left the booth and made your way to your lecture with your faith in humanity intact, with your pockets emptier but with a huge smile on your face nonetheless. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what it feels like to contribute towards a good cause.
That good cause is namely refugee awareness. The booth was part of LSESU Amnesty International’s wider efforts to increase public understanding of the current refugee crisis, and to assist existing endeavours trying to ameliorate the lives of refugees. The main focus of the booth was on the Islington Centre for Refugees and Migrants. Situated in Islington, a borough in Inner London, the Centre is an independent charity which helps refugees assimilate into their new lives in the UK. The Islington Centre provides refugees and asylum seekers with English lessons, a chance to integrate themselves in the community and meet others in their same situation, and aims to attend to the emotional, practical, intellectual, and spiritual needs of each migrant or refugee. Unfortunately, the Centre, which is the lifeline of so many refugees and migrants in the country, is suffering from severe shortages and underfunding, which is where Amnesty International came in.
The booth involved several different means of supporting the Centre and the refugee effort in general. People revealed their tender sides as they pinned up sweet and thoughtful notes addressed to the refugees and migrants at the Islington Centre on the board available, urging them to persevere and to have hope, and assuring them of their support and their recognition of their (the refugees’) plight. Adding more sweetness to the booth was the cupcake sale on Tuesday. Ordered fresh from the magical Lola’s Cupcakes, this classic initiative attracted numerous hungry students to the booth, who were even willing to pay extra for their cupcake upon discovering the great cause which their yummy treat would help support. What also proved popular was having a Polaroid picture taken for a small fee whilst holding up an Amnesty International poster reading: Refugees Welcome, or having the same picture taken for LSESU Amnesty’s Facebook page. Participants were encouraged to take the posters home, free of charge.
Those who visited the booth also found the letter templates provided by Amnesty International very useful, detailing how to lobby your MP for increasing the support given to refugees in the UK, and for better funding for centres like the Islington Centre. LSESU Amnesty International also collaborated with STAR- Student Action for Refugees- to organise a Book Drive for refugees in Lebanon. People brought the books they wanted to give away and placed them in a box provided by the booth. All the books collected will be sent to the Jeb Janine Refugee Education Centre, where they aim to equip children with the key skills necessary to enroll in the Lebanese public school system, as well as teach them basic Maths, Arabic, and English, and perhaps most importantly- Peace Education.
Another aspect of the booth was the donation box: the timeless cornerstone of every charitable effort. Upon being informed by the volunteers at the booth about the Islington Centre and the incredible work it does, people donated generously, with one monumental and quite humbling endowment of one hundred pounds. Sadly, the money accumulated throughout the week is more than the funding which the Islington Centre normally receives on a monthly basis, which is why efforts like the ones organised by Amnesty International are so crucial. In light of the political world’s cruel rejection of refugees, the people’s collective actions are now more imperative than ever.
I hope you had the chance to visit the booth during the week, and witness firsthand the truly remarkable and inspirational work put in by LSESU Amnesty International. Despite the media’s callous and dehumanising descriptions of refugees and migrants as ‘swarms of people’, designed to lump all displaced people into one homogeneous mass, each and every refugee is a unique individual, with an incredibly moving and heart-wrenching story. They do not leave their countries, their families, their livelihood, and their homes by choice. They are not here to spread disease, trouble, or incite terrorist action. They are not here to steal anybody’s jobs. They are simply looking for a second chance at life, asking the world which has taken so much from them to give them even the tiniest bit back. This is why I welcome refugees and support the refugee cause wholeheartedly. We are all united in our humanity, regardless of race, religion, or gender, which seems to have been forgotten. What remains is reminding people of this fact and helping to globally ignite the flame of human empathy which resides within us all, in order to move forwards towards a more accepting, civilised, enlightened, and humane world.
Malak Azer, Staff Writer
Donate here: http://www.islingtoncentre.co.uk