Raising funds for refugee and at-risk academics and students

Big Walk finishThis year Sheffield is showing its support for refugees. Sheffield is a City of Sanctuary, and the University is committed to doing its part to help keep safe students and academics who are at risk of harm in their home countries. Thanks to your support we have been able to raise over £50,000 towards this cause.

To this end the University has been coordinating a series of events. On Sunday 5 June our Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Keith Burnett led a walk in solidarity with refugees, inviting staff and students from the University, as well as members of the local community, to walk with him from the suburbs of Sheffield to the University. The aim of this walk was to spread the message of hope for refugees, and to show what Sheffield as a city does to welcome those in danger.

Then, from 12-17 June two teams took part in the Big Walk 2016, our main fundraising event to help bring refugee students and at-risk academics to Sheffield. This year’s walk saw two teams cover more than 120 miles each along the Trans Pennine Trail – one setting off from Southport on the west coast, the other from Hornsea in the east – before meeting in the middle at Tankersley, north of Sheffield, to join friends and supporters for the One Day Challenge – a further 18-mile walk back to the University together.

Professor Gill Valentine, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Social Sciences at the University of Sheffield, and leader of the Hornsea Team, said:

“The Big Walk was an amazing experience – absolutely mind-blowing. Everyone found it very challenging but we worked really well as a team.

“Whenever we had blisters or injuries we kept talking about how lucky we were that we had the right equipment, beds to sleep in and homes to go back to. Refugees and asylum seekers have to make much more challenging journeys, many carrying children with them.”

Funds raised will help both students and academics who have been forced to flee their homes and are seeking refuge in the UK, often with next to nothing in terms of possessions. Thanks to your support, the University has been able to set up five asylum-seeker scholarships for students who have not yet been awarded refugee status and therefore have no access to student loans or other public funds, covering the cost of tuition and providing a £9,840 award to support living costs for each year of study. These scholarships are unique in the UK and are available to students studying for undergraduate degrees or postgraduate master’s courses.

Abdi-Aziz SuleimanFormer Sheffield Students' Union President Abdi-Aziz Suleiman was also a refugee from Somalia. For him, the cause is a powerful one, not just because of the much-needed funds, but also because of the message of solidarity it shows. He said:

“Me and my mother were forced by the civil war in Somalia to seek home elsewhere. It's the most disorientating of things and the future quality of life is coloured by the quality of welcome.

“This is why we can be proud as a University that we haven't just welcomed those fleeing the tragedies of our world, we've committed to doing for them what we hope would be done for us.”

To read more about the challenge please visit the Big Walk web pages

Find out more about the University's support of refugees via our Refugees Welcome web page

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