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Issued:31/05/18

Students from Sheffield Hallam University are to travel to northern France to work with children and families who remain living there in poor conditions following the demolition of the Calais 'Jungle' refugee camp.  

From 1 June, up to 30 students on the University's social work, social care and community studies courses will each spend two weeks in Calais and Dunkirk throughout the summer, as part of a volunteering programme with the School Bus Project. They will be the first group of university students to volunteer for this project.

Many refugees remain in northern France after the 'Jungle' was dismantled two years ago and student volunteers will travel with the school bus team to areas populated with displaced people to provide a mobile educational service.

The School Bus Project's original big yellow bus conversion provided support for younger children and parents to play and learn on the lower deck, and on the top deck, a more formal learning space for teenagers and young adults. The project now uses a variety of vehicles.

Matthew Witter (20) is a second year social work student taking part in the project. He said: "I am looking forward to going on the trip. I think it's a really good opportunity for my personal and professional development. It will help me understand the situation the refugees are in, as in the future I might be working with people in these circumstances. This experience will also give me transferable skills, as I'm hoping to do social work with adults in the future."

Social work masters students, Katie Bell (26), from Sheffield, Matilda Hind (23), from Reading and Laura Green (36), from Sheffield (pictured) said: "We want to take this opportunity to help now while we still can and before we qualify and start careers as social workers. It will be a fantastic experience for us which we can use in practice to help others.”

Sukey Tarr, senior lecturer in the department for social work and social care, said: "Not only will the project support the personal and educational development of the refugee community, it will also provide our students with hands-on experience of working with some of the most vulnerable members of society and will provide a solid foundation on which to build their careers in social work and social care. It's a fantastic opportunity working for a fantastic cause."

Jon O'Connor, charity trustee and project lead for the School Bus Project, said: "For the last ten years, the numbers fleeing war zones, economic disaster, hunger and other human tragedies has grown. Many find themselves on a long, hard journey in search of a better life and we believe education is a human right for everyone.

"Using mobile teaching spaces and resources, we give people a chance to continue their education, develop skills, take language classes and prepare for a better life. We are looking forward to welcoming Sheffield Hallam University students onto the project and providing them with an opportunity to make a difference to the lives of these refugees."

For press information: Sarah Duce in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 4025 or email s.duce@shu.ac.uk