The Durham branch of SolidariTee is encouraging students to buy their t-shirts in the run-up to Christmas. SolidariTee is the largest student-run charity in the UK that fights for change in the refugee crisis, in particular through legal aid.
They argue that in the short term, legal aid minimises the risk of an individual who has a legitimate claim to asylum from being deported unjustly and brings family members, scattered across Europe, back together again. This makes it the most sustainable and empowering form of aid.
The fundraising model of SolidariTee is simple. Student volunteers sell and deliver t-shirts around university towns, cutting out middle-man costs since the teams work remotely. They also run events in order to raise awareness and use infographics to challenge false narratives about refugees.
The idea was conceived by Cambridge student Tiara Sahar Ataii in early 2017 as a form of “silent protest”. Those wearing the t-shirts could see the wide range of support, while also making a tangible difference. Since its conception, the charity has set up bases across over 40 universities in the UK, US, and Europe.
The 2020 t-shirt designs are based on a collaborative artwork produced by refugees and asylum seekers. The 2020 t-shirt designs are based on a collaborative artwork produced by refugees and asylum seekers from northern Greece. They are produced ethically and sustainably, using organic cotton and water-based inks.
Costing £12, the charity guarantees that more than £8.10 of each sale goes directly towards NGOs who provide legal aid. Proceeds from one t-shirt is enough to fund a day’s worth of food and accommodation for two translators.
Durham’s branch of SolidariTee is led by Harry Gadsby, a fourth year chemistry student from St Cuthbert’s Society, and Nikita Kumar, a second year law student from Van Mildert College. They lead a team of 25 volunteers. Asked how and why they got involved with the charity, Gadsby told Palatinate: “Over lockdown I was looking into ways in which I could get more involved in student-life in, whilst investing my time into something meaningful and worthwhile.
“I was aware of the work that SolidariTee does, having had friends who were involved last year. This meant when I saw a Facebook post about getting involved, I thought why not and was lucky enough to get the role of Head Rep alongside Nikita.”
Kumar said: “I have always volunteered with various groups and been interested in the refugee crisis, so being Head Rep gave me the opportunity to bring both those sides together into one cohesive role. And the best part is that we have a team who love to do the same, and I get to support them with that.”
Kumar encouraged students to get involved with the charity, saying: “We have so many exciting events coming up, including collaborations with other societies as we really want to establish a name for SolidariTee on campus. Our next event is on 19th November and will be a panel discussion on the refugee crisis and other humanitarian issues.”
The importance of the charity’s mission was reiterated by Gadsby, who said: “The one thing I’d say is not to be naive about the refugee crisis.
“Even though the vast amount of money SolidariTee raises goes towards camps in Greece, the refugee crisis is something that hits far closer to home than this. Look at our Prime Minister and Home Secretary’s recent statement on asylum seekers trying to cross the channel.
“A global change in perspective, and law, is needed. Did you know that the UK is the only country in Europe to indefinitely detain asylum seekers? A global change in perspective, and law, is needed to ensure that moral justice prevails.”
Students can get involved in the charity in a number of different ways, including by following the charity’s social media pages, buying a t-shirt, attending events across campus, and becoming a rep.
Image: Beatrice Law