A week of events promoting further understanding of refugees has begun in Norwich with events on campus and in the city. Norwich Refugee Week is aiming to bring communities across Norfolk together from Saturday 15th to Sunday 23rdJune. This nationwide programme of events consists of schools, cafes, community groups and arts centres hosting cultural, educational and arts events to promote an understanding of how and why people become refugees. UEA was awarded the status of University of Sanctuary in 2018. In a statement the university said it was “proud to be recognised”, and that “UEA staff and students have shown an ongoing commitment to increasing understanding of asylum and refugee concerns, and welcoming sanctuary seekers into [their] university community”.
During this month’s Refuge Week there are over 20 events taking place across Norwich. UEA stated, “The University of Sanctuary is delighted to be part of this year’s Norwich Refugee Week which is the biggest to date.”
The opening weekend is kicking off with a celebratory launch party at the Norwich Art Centre on 16th June. The UEA University of Sanctuary will be represented at the event, sharing details with attendees about the initiative. The evening will include a variety of performances ranging from music from Sefo Kanuteh, poetry from Salah El Nagar and a book reading from Gervelie Kouloungou. Ben and Jerry’s will join the celebrations to provide free ice cream, while raising awareness of the Lift the Ban campaign, which aims to allow asylum seekers to work in the UK.
Norfolk Welcomes artwork will hang in the Hive during Norwich Refugee Week before moving onto The Octagon Chapel in Norwich, Great Yarmouth Library, Dereham Library and Fakenham Library. The artwork was made by pupils from Avenues Junior School and Hellesdon High School. The giant artwork is a homage to the Strangers, a group of refugees who came to Norwich fleeing religious persecution in the 16th century and who helped rejuvenate the local textile industry, profoundly shaping Norwich’s history. Amongst the 77 squares of fabric designed by the school children there will be colourful handprints of local refugees and migrants made during a craft workshop held by New Routes Integration.
Patrick Changa, a University of Sanctuary steering group member, visited Hellesdon High school to share with pupils his own personal account of being a refugee. He spoke about the charity work he carries out to help young refugees in Norfolk to secure an education.
Other events include a sanctuary book display in UEA Waterstones, The Friend Ship for HumaniTea Partyand UEA Student Action for Refugee Care4Calais Collection.
The Care4Calais Collection will consist of UEA students, led by Rob Klim, who will join together with the Norwich Schools of Sanctuary. There will be a collection point for donated items in Union House, and various other Norwich Schools of Sanctuary will be collecting more items over the course of the week. UEA students will collect all the items received from local schools and uea(su) and drive them directly to Calais.
Mr Klim said: “Everyone and anyone can take part please come along to the range of events running throughout the week. Refugees are people who have had an impact locally for centuries from the Dutch settlers in the 17th century to the present.
“Have a great time at the events running throughout the city and please remember if you are moving out you can message the Don’t be a Wasteman charity collection page and we will come and collect your non-perishable food, clothing and kitchenalia to provide to the refugees who need them.”