UK university student Joy Stacey is trying to bring more scholarship opportunities to migrants and refugee students around the world. Her Silat Network is almost off the ground but it still needs help.
Getting an education can be one of the most important things in life. But many migrants and refugees have a hard time finding opportunities to continue higher education. Joy Stacey, a PhD student at the University of Essex in the UK, is working to change that with an education project called the Silat Network.
Stacey founded the Silat Network after spending several years working with migrants and refugees in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. She knew that there were university places and scholarships for students from these countries, but most refugees didn't know how to find them or to apply. There are private companies that can help, but they are usually expensive. The Silat Network aims to make this information available to refugees for free.
Just a push
There are many refugees who have the knowledge and willpower to pursue higher education, Stacey says. All they need is a little bit of guidance and to learn how to apply to universities and for scholarships. This kind of help is usually given free of charge to students already in the UK and US, but it's very hard to obtain for those outside of those countries.
"I think over the years it's become very apparent to me that this is privileged knowledge and it shouldn't be," said Stacey.
One of the more difficult aspects of an application for a university place or a scholarship is trying to show what makes an applicant different or how their lives have prepared them for university on just one side of a sheet of paper. This can be especially challenging for refugees who have been through so much. However, telling the story of what has happened to them should be avoided in the application, Stacey says.
"I've met a lot of students who write about really awful things that happen to them and that actually doesn't say much about who they are as a student," she explains. "But it also means that they are writing about things that are really traumatic and really horrible and they shouldn't have to ... They need to show how brilliant they are because they are brilliant, rather than have to talk about what they have to go through in order to become brilliant."
Already a success
Stacey has already managed to help one student fulfill her dream of continuing her education in the United States. The student not only received a full scholarship but living expenses as well, amounting to a total of more than $200,000 in assistance.
In the West Bank, Stacey has hosted workshops on how to obtain scholarships in the United Kingdom. She used a live stream to reach out to even more students and help them to learn how to get scholarships and how to connect with students in the UK. It was this workshop that made Stacey realize just how many people she could help to improve their lives.
Raring to go
The Silat Network is still in the fundraising phase. Stacey says it needs less than €22,300 to get off the ground. She plans to create a digital platform that can reach people around the world. It will start with education opportunities in the UK, but she hopes it will spread to the US and the rest of Europe.
InfoMigrants will keep you posted once the Silat Network has launched.