Sending Hope through EuropeMonday 19 October 2015
Social Work students from Liverpool Hope University filled a container with close to eight tonnes of aid for thousands of refugees in Samos, as well as taking a convoy of supplies and funds to Calais.
After four weeks of fundraising and collecting, Carol Derbyshire was given the job of representing the students in closing the doors on the 40 foot container which will take six days to arrive in Samos, where a former social work professor from the University of Liverpool, Chris Jones, has established a refugee support network.
Students and staff spent all day Friday filling the container with donations of bedding, clothes, tents, toiletries and food, many of which had come from as far away as Glasgow.
Once the container was filled, the students prepared to leave for Calais that night, where they joined a larger Social Work Convoy and took part in a solidarity demonstration alongside the refugees, aid agencies and social workers from around the country.
Granada Reports and Radio City reported on the efforts of the students, speaking to MA student Jemma Herbert and Professor Michael Lavalette. Professor Lavalette told Granada Reports why they wanted to go to Calais: “Our intention is to bring hope, materials and to show solidarity with those in Calais.” He also revealed that funds raised - around £2500 - would help to buy a mini bus for use in the ‘jungle’ to help refugees access healthcare more quickly.
On the same day, the Times Higher Education published a piece from Professor Lavalette, in which he wrote:
“Social work is guided by an international definition as to its values, ethos, duties and activities. This talks about a commitment to universal human rights, human emancipation, social justice and meeting human need. If this is how social work self-defines, how could it not speak out in support of refugee rights?
The convoy has grown beyond all initial expectations, with cars, vans and lorries travelling from all over the country.
For us, offering solidarity and engaged political support to vulnerable people is also about re-establishing a forgotten tradition within our discipline. In the 1930s, social workers spoke out and supported refugees fleeing fascism in Spain and Nazism in Poland. We, as academics and practitioners, want to reconnect with that history and re-establish a social work that puts people first – no matter where they come from.”
The work of the Social Work students does not end with the convoy of the container – at Easter next year they will spend a week in Samos working closely with the refugees.