Plymouth START (Students and Refugees Together) has been chosen as one of the winners of the European Citizen's Award for 2017, and South West MEP Clare Moody was on hand to present the prize. The award is given each year to citizens, groups or organisations who have displayed exceptional achievements and commitment to areas which promote stronger integration, cultural cooperation and links to the European spirit.
START works in partnership with families, individuals and organisations to support refugees settling in Plymouth with a dedicated team and an innovative placement scheme for students. It is important to START to facilitate the transition of refugees from people in need to self-reliant contributors to their local communities. A variety of projects are run, such as The Job Club, Allotment, START Walking, One to One Support and Women's Creative Group.
START'S Chair Avril Bellinger said, “This award really affirms START's approach that sees potential rather than problems and that works to bring out the strengths of individuals, groups and communities. Since 2001 I have seen Plymouth become a city where people and organisations work together to welcome people from all over the world whatever their circumstances.
Clare Moody, MEP for the South West and Gibraltar, nominated START for the award having visited one of START's projects, the Cultural Kitchen, where staff, trustees, students, service users and volunteers prepare a meal for the 60 to 80 people who attend each session. Free art and craft activities are available and enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Clare said, “Seeing the work that START does for refugees in Plymouth made it an obvious choice to nominate them for a European Citizen’s Prize. They are worthy winners and this Prize goes some way to recognising the positive impact that START has made in the lives of refugees and volunteers in Plymouth, as well as building understanding and bringing communities together.”
Luke Pollard, Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, added: "Plymouth is a welcoming city and in uncertain times that welcome needs to be louder and more caring. The work that START does is incredible and rightly brings together the city, students and refugees. It is precisely because of organisations like START that Plymouth has earned a reputation for being welcoming. Well done."