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Making a Difference This Christmas as a Student

Whether or not you choose to celebrate Christmas, it is certainly a time to reset and spend time with family. However, not everyone can have the perfect Christmas, many are not able to spend time with their loved ones and are indefinitely separated from their families. Many refugees and asylum seekers flee their homes due to fear of violence and persecution, including making dangerous and life-threatening journeys to feel safe. They are then forced to live in inhumane ‘refugee camp’ conditions, particularly across Europe and other parts of the world. The festive period can not only be a chance to give back to those you love personally, but a chance to be thankful for our own privilege, and to think about how we can help those who are in very different and difficult situations. 

As a student, it can be tricky to volunteer and donate your time and money toward charities, but there are many other ways that you can make a difference this Christmas, from supporting local ethically sourced businesses to simply shifting the conversation on stigma around the ‘refugee crisis’.

Shopping sustainably

Shopping sustainably can be difficult and expensive; however, shopping sustainably can also mean shopping locally and supporting your local small businesses and buying second-hand. Etsy has some really great sustainable and ethically sourced products, or you can even gift someone an experience rather than a physical present to avoid plastic wastage and buying from unethical fast fashion brands. On the other hand, shopping sustainably is often the more expensive route, so making your own Christmas present, such as baking some treats or getting your arts and crafts on is an equally eco-friendly, cheap, and wholesome way to show someone you love them!

The Bike Project

Every year, The Bike Project take second-hand bikes, repairs and donates them to refugees and asylum seekers in London and Birmingham. So, if you are getting a brand-new bike this year, consider donating your old one as a gift to a refugee or asylum seeker, which can help them access free trips to food banks, healthcare, legal services, and education.


SolidariTee is an international student-led charity that offers grants to NGOs that provide long-term legal aid to refugees and asylum seekers so they can begin to rebuild their lives in peace and safety. As an organisation which is entirely run by student volunteers, SolidariTee raises money through selling T-shirts which are a visual demonstration of solidarity with refugees. They come in all sizes, colours, and designs, including artwork designed by refugees and can be accessed on their online store. If you want to save money on delivery, you can contact a local student rep (like me!) to buy one of these sustainably and ethically produced tees: SolidariTee reps at Nottingham and unis across the world are selling shirts in person all year round, not just this Christmas. This year’s ‘Dream’ collection is the most sustainable yet: these t-shirts are carbon neutral and plant-based! It would make a great gift for a friend or family this year, whilst also supporting the fight toward change in the refugee process.

If you are not interested in purchasing a shirt, you can visit the University of Nottingham SolidariTee Facebook page and show your support, or even volunteer yourself – anyone is welcome. I am very grateful to be part of such a sustainable, selfless, and rewarding organisation, and this Christmas there is no better time to make a difference. Each shirt is £10 or £12 and at least £8 of that goes directly toward the NGOs fighting for the legal aid of asylum seekers. It’s not just a gift of Christmas for this year but will help refugees secure asylum for the rest of their lives.

If you are interested in purchasing a SolidariTee shirt online, you can use my referral code LA47BATT at checkout!

Opening the conversation

The so-called ‘refugee crisis’ is not one crisis, but rather many crises occurring around the world - not every conflict gets the media recognition it deserves, yet the ones that do may do more harm than good. Around the Christmas table you may find a relative making an ill-informed or generalised statement around refugees and immigration. This is partly due to the media’s hand in heavily politicising the debate around asylum seekers, who are often portrayed in a negative light by fear-mongering rhetoric. This is simply not true and is fuelled by misinformation and xenophobia - you can find more information about these negative perceptions on SolidariTee’s mythbuster series and Facebook page for up-to-date infographics. Difficult conversations are a necessity, and by educating our loved ones, you are certainly contributing to the change.

Laura Batten

Nottingham '23

2nd-year student studying English Lang and Lit with an unhealthy obsession with cats, pasta and Gossip Girl
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