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We are Active Citizens



Reflections on decolonising the curriculum panel

By utnvmab, on 9 February 2020

Blog by Muhammad Salihen bin Haji Mohammed Azmi 

On 22 January, I attended a panel on decolonising the curriculum. The panel is one of the various sessions of the Active Citizenship Strand- UCL Global Citizenship Programme.

There were 3 speakers on the panel. Each had a different focus on decolonisation but their presentations interlinked. What caught my attention the most was the discussion about the removal of Rhodes statue in Cape Town University as a resemblance of empowerment to the black people in Cape Town University. Other than a number of other issues were discussed, which might be considered controversial, such as linking anti-Zionism (criticising the violations committed by the state of Israel)  with anti-Semitism. From the entire discussion I was trying to reflect on the effect of colonialism in this day and age on education systems. It was an eye opener especially to people like myself who are coming from a comfortable background. Even though I might have been ignorant about this matter, now I can see the situation in a different lens, relating the case back home in Brunei whereby we still use the British education system, believing that it is the best since it gives us better opportunities to further our studies abroad causing our mother tongue to be our secondary mode of communication. Most of the discussions focused on the super powers from the West, the discussion about the super powers of the East were barely touched upon even though there are a lot of things that need to be raised such the conflict between Taiwan and China, the oppression in Hong-Kong against activists fighting for freedom , and China’s influence towards other countries in South East Asia for example claiming the islands in South China Sea. The reason why we have to talk more about this is because this issue is timely, we see its implications now on our campus. Students who are raising the issue of repression in Hong-King are being silenced. This is the link to the article about the closing down a students’ lead Amnesty stand in support of Hong-Kong: https://thetab.com/uk/london/2019/12/02/ucl-amnesty-stall-on-democracy-in-hong-kong-closed-down-due-to-security-concerns-35577 .

We need to raise our voices, and the right to freedom of expression needs to be protected on camps.

A chance to walk in another’s shoes

By utnvmab, on 5 June 2019

By: Tilly Ruback

Today at the Migration Museum we got straight to work on the film constructing a storyboard and script and familiarising ourselves with an animation program we found. Following a briefing on the purpose, demographic and necessary information for the film yesterday, we had more material at our disposal, making it easier to get these tasks done. Having listened to how other strands had gone about drafting for their films, we focused on presenting the museum’s place in active citizenship and promoting how their education programmes play a role in this.


Working on the film in the ‘backroom’ – the museum’s make-shift spare office space and stock room. Interestingly, this room is preserved from when the building was neglected before it became a community space to house the museum. You can still see the decorations on the walls from the squat raves!


As we browsed over participant’s reviews for the education programmes on the museum website, one teacher’s comment stood out to me. The review read,


“Our best part? Unanimously: learning from the young refugee. He was

 inspirational and humble, and the children were amazed to ask him

questions and hear about the determination he showed to get to this

country and his experiences on the journey.”


Thinking about this remark in terms of active citizenship, we can relate the ways the museum helps to inspire and generate change in similar ways to how Phyllis Starkey’s talk this morning described her motivations behind becoming more pragmatic in making change in government. While at first the two may seem different in many ways since as a former Labour MP, Starkey’s work was geared towards political policy, and the museum is very much an apolitical educational platform, Starkey explained how her visit to Palestine (which became the focus of her lobbying) pushed her to take action. By hearing and learning directly from the people who have lived through it – whether it be immigration for a refugee or occupation for a Palestinian – people feel the urgency and reality of the issue at hand and can be motivated to contribute to making change.

When writing the script today we were struggling to find the right way to get this message across. We ended up going with how the educational workshops allow students “a chance to walk in another’s shoes” – a fitting phrase we believed to describe how understanding the experiences of another can bring on new perspectives, open our eyes to injustices and provide us with the understanding and ability to make change.


All good things start with Education

By utnvmab, on 4 June 2019

By Eduarda

Day 4 at the Migration Museum – Today we discussed what we would like our video to look like, both with our supervisor, Sophia and with Liberty and Emily at the Migration Museum. Our goal is to produce a video that can be valuable to Migration Museum, that represents what Active Citizenship is all about and that gets us excited to produce and eager to learn to use Adobe Premiere Pro.Thankfully, we believe all the above boxes have been ticked. The Migration Museum is all about sharing migration stories and trough those stories incite compassion and understanding no matter what pre-disposed beliefs people might have about migration. The Migration Museum understands that education is the key for their mission’s success, and so has, from their early stages, worked to build relationships with primary schools, secondary schools, community centres… Pretty much anyone and everyone who is open to learning.


Pop-up project at The Workshop – Migration Museum.

They have an amazing educational program, with resources and tips for teachers so that migration can be talked about openly and constructively in the classroom. The first step in order to become an active citizen is to question what you see and raise discussions, to defy what you don’t agree with while listening to the opposing view. This is the environment the Migration Museum believes a classroom can be. We hope to, via our video, be able to share this view so it is one step closer to becoming a reality.

School group visits the Room to Breathe exhibition, Kitchen – a room to eat.

Seeing the Why

By utnvmab, on 4 June 2019

Blog by: Eduarda Silva 

The people at the Migration Museum have made it their mission to share and celebrate the rich migration stories that have shaped the UK. Today we were given the chance to play a small role in this. Our task was to find statistical data about emigration from the UK dating back to the 1600s. Sounds doable enough right? We are well equipped with 2 laptops and a fast internet connection, what could go wrong?

Well, for starters, every time we did a google search about emigration in the UK, Google promptly asked us if we meant immigration! I wish I could say things took a turn from there, but they didn’t. Although we were surprised to find a significant number of relatively detailed records, considering how long ago this was, of the passengers of a number of ships originating all around the UK with destinations all over the world, we could not find any real statistical data on emigration dating that further back. This task has shown us just how important the work the Migration Museum is doing, documenting the rich history of migration that has been overlooked and ignored for so long.

While we were pondering whether to give up or start our 10-year journey of sorting each passenger one by one, we were asked to stay at the reception welcoming guests for a while. I felt a bit intimidated as I did not feel my face was a good enough first impression for the amazing work that is Room to Breathe.

Arrivals – a room to begin. The first room of the Room to Breathe exposition. It represents the bureaucratic obstacles migrants face when moving to a new country. The first room in migrants see in their new country and the first room visitors see.


As the visitors exited the exhibition, I could tell that they felt the same way about the exhibition as I did. There were numerous Thank yous, but most importantly there was a smile, a nostalgic smile, a thankful smile, an empathetic smile and a hopeful smile. One woman even gave us her card, as she eagerly talked about her own project about the experiences of “hyphenated Canadians” and about the possibility of gifting a book to become a part of the exposition.

Seeing the reactions of those people to Room to Breathe took away all the frustration we were experiencing by not being able to complete the task. It was a powerful reminder of the Why we were doing it, and a reminder we were not doing it alone.

The place to thrive: visiting the Baytree centre

By utnvmab, on 3 June 2019

Blog by: Durant Des Aulnois, Josephine; Avni, Umran; Badruddin, Zohreen; Madriaga, Allison; Lai, Yiqiong

As the team working with Wonder Foundation, our mission is to create a short film about the FATIMA project, an initiative that helps women migrant to learn English and integrate in their community.

This panel was created by project mentors and outlines their objectives

Friday was a most fruitful day for the group! In the morning, we had a session with STAR (Student Action for Refugees) that taught us about the complexity of asylum-seeking process in the UK. Part of our work as active citizens is to understand the challenges faced by others. This lecture was most useful for our work with the Foundation, as it introduced intersectionality (the belief that discriminations are inter-connected and have to be treated holistically). Helping women migrants imply to look at gender’s influence on education and language barriers.

The afternoon saw our first visit to Baytree centre (the project’s HQ): although it was closed, we were able to meet Rosa, a volunteer of Wonder Foundation and the Fatima Project.

The centre from the other side of the street

Rosa has been mentoring young girls for two years and told us how much this experience has brought her. Drawing on her testimony and making good use of the room we had been allocated, we changed the focus of our film. We were able to draft our storyboard and our script, all that in two hours! Friday was a good day indeed!

Preliminary work for our narrative

Lights, camera, take action! Filmmaking for a campaign

By utnvmab, on 3 June 2019

Blog by: Allison, Umran, Yiqiong, Zohreen and Josephine

The day began with a film-making workshop. It allowed us to review several films made for awareness campaigns, and to get a clearer picture of what works… and what doesn’t!

The morning ended with practical filming tips, from framing to lights. Key takeaway: less is more.

We have to find a simple idea that delivers a clear message and calls for direct action.

These were the words we went by in the afternoon. At first with our navigator Sophia and then on our own, we settled down and drafted some ideas for our video. For those wondering what a brainstorm between active citizens looks like, check out Yiqiong’s picture below!


The creative process can be tiring and slightly overwhelming (drowning in ideas is hardly better than desperately looking for one). To avoid this, we pinned to the wall our main goal: getting the public to engage with our video. Having done so, it was easier for us to start coordinating our points of view and discuss the technicalities of filming. School holidays mean that the Baytree centre (HQ of the FATIMA Project) will be empty tomorrow, so we have to stay one step ahead and carefully plan out our moves. The session was fruitful. Without giving away too many details on our secret project, we can say our story is taking shape. It looks promising! Finding a way to engage with the public in only 2 minutes is far from easy, but we are ready to tackle the challenge for the Wonder Foundation!

Small Moves can Lead to Big Changes

By utnvmab, on 31 May 2019

Blog by: Tilly Ruback

The Migration Museum at the Workshop showcases the intimate details of how migration to and from Britain has shaped its people throughout history in creative, innovative and unique ways.

After being slightly puzzled over why the museum was located in what looked like an empty fire station, we met Liberty who showed us around the museum space, introduced us to the team and gave us the full run down of what the museum is all about. Despite only running since 2013, the museum has staged a range of events, exhibitions and education workshops to help push migration to the forefront of our understandings about national identity, belonging and British history. The Migration Museum makes up for the neglected rich history of migrants in Britain’s narrative and as a result, deconstructs how we imagine what it means to be British today.

Photographs on display as you walk up the stairs to the entrance from a previous exhibition 100
Images of Migration.

Photographs on display as you walk up the stairs to the entrance from a previous exhibition 100Images of Migration.

Unlike other strands in the programme, the Migration Museum does not necessarily protest or lobby against the issues they care about, but provides a ‘softer’ active citizenship in the form of encouraging their visitors to engage with personal stories to enrich their understanding of migration and leave having not only learnt about the large role migration plays in national life, but about how everybody’s lives are intimately tied to migration in one way or­­­­­­ another.

Eduarda and I had the opportunity to explore the current exhibition Room to Breathe. It’s an interactive art and sound installation that takes you through various migratory spaces that hold a lot of meaning – such a bedroom, kitchen, classroom and barber shop. Crucial to the exhibition is how visitors physically engage with the objects on display. From reading emotional postcards by loved ones from home, touching silk saris from inside a closet, smelling spices in the kitchen and listening to individual stories in an armchair to watching a conversation between a barber and customer, I was amazed at the attention to detail and variety of materials and stories.

Exhibition guide for Room to Breathe.

It became clear to me that the museum is not simply presenting information, but about being able to engage with individuals personally, to enrich your experience and leave learning more about how migration informs our own lives as well as the everyday lives of immigrants in Britain.

When I think of contemporary Britain, migration and active citizenship, my mind cannot help but go to defending the rights of those who will suffer from Brexit, the Home Office hostile environment policy, the Windrush scandal or the horrors of detention centres. But after spending a couple hours at the Migration Museum, interacting with such cherished objects and personal stories, it became clear that by being able to empathise and really put yourself in another’s perspective, you not only better understand the struggles immigrants face upon arriving, but the process of settling in, finding their community, finding their foods, their football club etc and the opportunities moving has given them for their education or career.

In an intimate, personal fashion, the Migration Museum gives us an insight into both the challenges and opportunities of migration. In what might at first seem like a small step towards changing the conditions over migration in Britain, the museum brings about great changes in public perception and mindset.

Exploring the notion of human rights analytically

By utnvmab, on 31 May 2019

Blog by: Inaara Alikhan, Xue Bai, Serene Chan, Macarena Cortinez Rojas, Alice Dendy, Tian Gao, Xinyue Liu, Duncan Mahon, Dora Mahon, Fang Wang, Christen Najm, Zihan Chen. Navigators: Adam Lang, Denise Quiroz Martinez

On the 28th of May, the Human Rights thematic group explored the notion of human rights analytically, and from different and diverse perspectives.
—Is it hard to define human rights? Do we take the notion of human rights for granted, especially in Western society?

What is Active Citizenship and how does it relate to the notion of Human Rights?

—Active citizenship is a critical, informed, proactive engagement with political and social problems affecting humankind, the animal kingdom, the environment, or the world in general. It is tied to the importance of political participation, of promoting fairness, of enforcing human rights and civic duties we have towards each other. It embodies the common equality of us all — that we all have rights to safety, welfare, a good living environment, etc., and also that future generations have these rights as well.

—On a smaller scale: your actions can affect others and affect change; you can educate yourself and develop ideas on what others have rights to.
—Involves engaging with global issues which concern all of us, regardless of our backgrounds, what we have done in our lives, our cultural identities, etc. Comprises issues which we all share in virtue of our humanity. Concerns the whole global population.

—We as students, able to access such a quality of education, we can effect change and promote justice, we are being empowered and we should take on civil and global responsibilities as members of the global society.
—Promotion of what is wrong and at stake; some people are ignorant of such widespread issues. Campaigning is important not only because of fighting for values but also to promote literacy and knowledge of problems.

—People have different outlooks and viewpoints on matters we are concerned with, and their participation might bring a fresh perspective, or might be further enlightened, by the sharing of ideas related to these humanitarian matters.

—Active citizenship is an opinion, an international feeling. Link to globalisation – each has their own opinion, each has something to contribute to the conversation, to help build a global picture.

◦Question: Should we or do we look at citizenship from a Western lens, and does this limit our view?

—We should take our voice and power enabled by technology to make an impact and bring about change. Equality can be put forward because our citizen power is enhanced by education, common language, means of communication, and technology. If we increase our individual or group power, we can help those with less of it, those without a voice, without good access to resources. Creation, dissemination and sharing of knowledge is crucial to build a movement towards social justice and towards humanitarian aims.

—Social justice underlies active citizenship and human rights act in a unifying way. We speak a common language in our pursuit of fairness. But the usefulness of the language of human rights but can be meaningless when bombarded by bureaucracies.
—We accept diversity, but the differences between us may be an obstacle to emancipation and to the attainment of our goals, which makes power relations unbalanced and does not allow the diversity to really be. (For example, to contribute one needs to know English well in order to partake in discussions in politics or policy or solidarity, etc.) So voicing for human rights may be more difficult due to diversity; and yet diversity seems to be a human right.

—In campaigning, jargon can be alienating, words might be institutionalised.

Our first encounter with GREENPEACE

By utnvmab, on 30 May 2019

Blog by: Juliana Aristizabal

On the second day of our Global Citizenship Program we, the environmental thematic project team, had our first encounter with GREENPEACE. We met Ray Cansick a volunteer from the organisation who gave us a brief introduction to what GREENPEACE is, what they do, how they do it and what they want to achieve with every action they take. We learned that one of the core values of this organisation is to focus on the solution rather than just pointing out the problems. Ray explained to us that every campaign or project that GREENPEACE works on seeks to achieve ACTION that can be either a photo opportunity for the media, direct communication with someone or causing something from happening or not happening. However, he also expressed that only a few people see and know is the amount and importance of investigation/research and lobbying needed for those actions to be possible.

For me personally, it was very interesting to learn that behind everything the public sees, there is a reason and a group of people that works for a long time. It is a great experience to be able to work on something you believe in from the inside. I look forward to working on a campaign for such a powerful organisation that has made amazing and unimaginable things happen, I can’t wait to see what we as a team can produce.

Lost in translation: the FATIMA project

By utnvmab, on 30 May 2019

Blog by: Allison, Umran, Yiqiong, Zohreen and Josephine

Wednesday night, welcome to Wonder Foundation


Today was the first day of our placement at Wonder Foundation! The charity aims at giving power to vulnerable women all around the world and making sure their voices are heard.


We had the chance to meet Olivia and Camille, who introduced us to the FATIMA project. The initiative allows 200 migrant women across 4 countries to have access to language classes. They benefit from a tailored, 1-to-1 mentoring that helps them tackle the issues of everyday life in a foreign country. The goal is to include them in the local community and make them feel at home in their new country.


To understand the distress that migrants can feel in the UK, we had to find a restaurant in Chinatown using only Chinese characters. The task was definitely easier for the Chinese speaker of our group, but she was forbidden from giving us any help! It did show us why it is so crucial for migrant women in London to master English. Confusion and exclusion are quick to come when words around do not make sense.


Carmina, a former mentee now mentor, then came to tell us about her experience. She mentioned how building strong links with migrant women was essential for them to progress, and that durable social change takes time. A valuable lesson in terms of active citizenship!

Us finding the restaurant in Chinatown based on an address in Mandarin (新龙凤大酒楼 (Gerrard Street) | 粤菜和点心) to meet the Wonder Foundation