Lost in the numbers: The story of young migrants & my King’s Sanctuary Scholarship

Arkam, Geography BA

Geography is all about making a change, whether this be on a local, regional or global scale. I love the concept of helping people and through studying geography I feel I can make a real positive impact in the short time that I have on this earth! One way I feel  can make a positive change, is through sharing my experiences as a migrant living in London and my journey on achieving a Sanctuary Scholarship at King’s.

Recently I was fortunate enough to give a TEDx talk at King’s regarding my situation as a long term migrant living in the UK. During my TEDx talk I spoke about my experience of growing up in the UK as a migrant and my shock discovery that I was not eligible for a government student loan to help fund my undergraduate course fees, even though I had lived in the UK since I was 10 years old, after moving from Pakistan. After nearly a decade in the education system, I was forced to take two gap years as I wasn’t eligible for student finance, which not only broke my dreams, but my parents’ dreams too.

Hitting this wall led me into joining the ‘Let Us Learn’ campaign, a group of young UK migrant activists who are helping to better represent migrant communities and campaign for equal access to education for all young people living in the UK regardless of their background.

As a result of campaigning with ‘Let Us Learn’, during the summer of 2015 me and my fellow campaigners won a case against the government at the supreme court, and changed their policy regarding student loans for people in my situation, which was fantastic news! In addition to this, through the support of the ‘Let Us Learn’ campaign and the Widening and Participation team at King’s, I was awarded a Sanctuary Scholarship at King’s, which has allowed my to pursue my Geography BA.

Before I was awarded the scholarship by Kings College London, I had little hope of being able to study, which was devastating as my family has always placed a strong emphasis on education To me, King’s College London is truly one of the best universities in the world as it’s opened up scholarships for people in my situation. This is a change towards equality for all, a concept that will give King’s an edge over other universities for equal opportunities and fairness. Studying Geography BA has finally allowed me to look forward to pursuing my career ambition in climate change research!

My TEDx talk called for those seeking change to be the catalyst for the change they want to see. It was a great opportunity for me to share my story and I hope to share the video about my roller coaster ride with you soon!

 

 

My Time as Moderator: Improving Mental Healthcare Access for Migrant Populations

Beauty, Global Health & Social Medicine BSc

Many of us at King’s are involved with extracurricular activities that focus on changing policy or volunteering for the betterment of others. Aside from my course, I am part of Global Health Policy Centre; one of the many policy centres that make up King’s Think Tank, as Liaison Officer.

Every year, each policy centre picks three main themes to focus on for their panel events, hackathons and policy papers produced feature in The Spectrum (which is bi-annual policy-recommendation journal). This year, our three main themes at the Global Health Policy Centre include: Brexit and its Impact on the NHS, Global Mental Health in War Contexts and Post-Conflict Countries and Waterborne Diseases.

Last Tuesday, we held our first panel discussion, which I had the privilege to moderate. As moderator, I had to the chance to ask four questions from our policy centres, as well as facilitate discussion between the audience and the panellists. The four panellists included were:

  • Professor Tim Kendall: NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health. He has been Director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health at the Royal College of Psychiatrists for 15 years and Visiting Professor at University College London for the last eight years.
  • Richard Sullivan: Professor of Cancer & Global Health at Kings College London and Co-Director of King’s Conflict & Health Research Group. The King’s Conflict & Research Group is also carrying out a Lancet Commission into Civil-Military co-operation in Global Health, in addition to a wide variety of field studies. Richard has worked extensively in many conflict regions from the Balkans through to Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and DR Congo in healthcare system reconstruction.
  • Zain Alatas: Head of Advocacy for Refugee Trauma Initiative (RTI), which is a grassroots organisation delivering innovative models in trauma-informed care and support for refugees. Operating in Northern Greece since 2016, their programmes are designed to restore agency among refugees, build their resilience and help them to build new lives for themselves.
  • Dr Stephani Hatch: Senior Lecturer in Social Epidemiology at the IOPPN. She is the Co-Principal Investigator for the Mental Health BRC South East London Community Health study and Lead for the Health Inequalities Research Network. Her key research interests include studying urban mental health and service use that provides much needed data on ethnic minority and migrant populations.

The panellists!

Each of the speakers had some insightful perspectives to add on some of the key issues facing migrants when seeking mental healthcare access in their own war-torn countries or their adopted countries. What was most interesting to me, was the idea of advertising mental health interventions for this demographic without the mental health label, to cater for the varying cultural approaches and stigma that largely exists within them. This event linked really well with my dissertation, which focuses on the idea of exploring alternative interventions that you wouldn’t normally associate with humour. It also linked perfectly with a module I look forward to taking next semester; War, Social Ruptures and Mental Health. Being part of the Global Health Policy Centre is great because  it relates well to what we’re currently studying. It encourages us to look beyond what we study in the classroom and to use the knowledge we’ve acquired in the real world!

I would encourage all prospective students, to get involved with  these events and take part in these societies. They’re not only an opportunity to test and use your knowledge outside the classroom, but to meet and network with people with the same interests as you (as well as learning from them).

Here’s a picture of me with the panellsts!

 

Women Leaders in Global Health Conference 2018

Beauty, Global Health & Social Medicine BSc

Earlier this month, the Department of Global Health & Social Medicine department gifted about 25 students (including myself) with free tickets to the Women Leaders in Global Health 2018 Conference a conference which brings together established and emerging leaders from across sectors and cultures to work towards gender equity in health leadership . Tickets for this conference usually cost around £50 if you’re a student and £300 if you’re a general attendee, so this was a great opportunity for us!

The conference included 900 attendees, (see picture below, can you spot us?) which mainly consisted of women.

The day was packed with a full schedule of exciting workshops! The workshops varied with some being more interactive and others being panel type discussions; themes ranged from a cultural lens on gender and organisational leadership to, social entrepreneurship and gender in global health and finally to exploring the gender lens on refugees and adolescence. As you can tell, at the crux of each of these workshops and talks was the role of women within the field of global health and just how much they make a difference in the field.

70% of workers in the field of Global Health are women and about half of them are not paid – and only 25% of leadership positions are occupied by women…where is the disconnect? What was so inspiring about this conference was it was led, dominated and moderated, all by women who held top positions within the field such as Dr Joanne Liu, International President of Doctors Without Borders and Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakia, Chief Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria. This was so important, not just for me, but for visibility of women to be seen and heard as part of the movement for change narrative as well as a narrative of leadership in Global Health; which is often overshadowed as some work is lost on the ground.

One of the best things about attending this conference, was the fact it was organised around an issue rather than just the entire discipline of Global Health. It was fascinating to see how differently people spoke and understood various issues within Global Health.

Me with some of my course friends at the conference

The take home message of this conference for me was, to not shy away from being a force within the field of Global Health and not just to aim to make change but make change as a leader.

P.S. One of my highlights from the conference was an artist who drew posters in real time during different panel discussions. Take a look at his sketches below!