Homelessness and Human Rights Campaign 2016!

Lent term 2016 saw the launch of CUAI’s first ever Homelessness and Human Rights Campaign!

The campaign was a part of the larger ‘Hope and Home’ campaign lead by Cambridge Homeless Outreach Programme (CHOP) and the Cambridge Hub. We also collaborated with a range of other student initiatives advocating for the rights of the homeless communities in Cambridge and abroad, including Cambridge Streetbite, Students Supporting Street Kids (SSSK), and Hiraeth.

All term CUAI’s wonderful college reps have been fundraising for b  and CHOP. The money raised in aid of SSSK will be going to grassroots organisations around the world that support street kids, and the money raised for CHOP will be used in further work engaging Cambridge students with organisations working with nthe homeless community in Cambridge.

As well as raising money another aim of our campaign was to engage students with the already existing initiatives helping the homeless community in Cambridge. In one of our weekly meetings we invited representatives of SSSK, Streetbite and Hiraeth to give quick talks about what they do and how CUAI members can get involved. As well as this CUAI sponsored a weekly Streetbite round after our normal Sunday meetings. This gave CUAI members an opportunity to directly help the homeless community in Cambridge, as well as get an idea of the significant numbers of people experiencing homelessness in Cambridge (not the 3 people the local council recognise).

We ended our campaign by hosting a panel discussion entitled ‘Homelessness and Human Rights: What’s being done and What Can We ado?’. The panel featured speakers from a range of different organisations looking at homelessness as a local, national, and international human rights abuse. Barry Griffiths joined us from Jimmys a shelter in Cambridge, François Holmey from Just Fair UK, and Sarah Rose from the Amos Trust. We are incredibly grateful to the speakers for joining us and hope everybody enjoyed the event!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this campaign possible! If you’d like anymore information about how you can get involved with the organisations mentioned above then please see the links below.

Jimmy’s shelter: http://jimmyscambridge.net
Just Fair: http://www.just-fair.co.uk
Amos Trust: http://www.amostrust.org

Cambridge Uni Amnesty International: https://www.facebook.com/camuniamnesty/
Students Supporting Street Kids: https://www.facebook.com/SSSKcambridge/
Cambridge Hub: https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeHub/
Cambridge Homeless Outreach Programme: https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeHomelessOutreachProgramme/
Streetbite: http://streetbite.soc.srcf.net/
Hiraeth: https://www.facebook.com/hiraethcambridge/


Meeting Shami Chakrabarti

Prior to her inspiring speech at the Cambridge Union in November, members of CUAI were given the opportunity to meet Shami Chakrabarti, who has been the director of the civil rights advocacy association ‘Liberty’ since 2003.

Although Amnesty and Liberty are separate organisations, it was encouraging to have Shami tell us that both are part of the major national and international human rights movement, which reinforced to us how important unity and collaboration are when it comes to supporting human rights.

As a highly experienced lawyer and campaigner, Shami advised us on how best to approach the current challenge of campaigning to keep the Human Rights Act, which the government is proposing to replace with a ‘British Bill of Rights’. Most importantly, she told us it is crucial that we articulate clearly to people  exactly what their rights are under the Act – which luckily for us is the approach we’d been taking  with our Human Rights Act Creative Campaign! We also discussed the importance of writing to your MP (especially if they are a Conservative) to express your support for keeping the Act.

In her speech, Shami spoke further about the Human Rights Act, and Liberty’s research into the current changes to it proposed by former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling on the Conservatives website in October 2014. She suggested that the British Bill of Rights may seek to restrict our human rights, or make them dependent on fulfilling the “responsibilities” of British Citizens. She described the proposed “triviality test”, to be set by Parliament, to “stop human rights being use for minor matters”. Shami opposed this, with Liberty having stated on its website that “this objective is impossible to reconcile with the essential purpose of human rights legislation: to protect the individual against arbitrary Executive decision-making”. A clear example of this, which Shami cited, was that of legal recognition of a new gender, which in the past the Government has not allowed on the basis that applicants did not face any “practical disadvantages” from now having their new gender identity recognised. Luckily, since then the law regarding gender recognition has been changed, but this example amongst others suggests how the inability to legally change gender, although clearly incredibly important, was at first considered “trivial”, and similar rights might not be protected under the proposed legislation.

Shami’s speech at the Union also dealt with government surveillance, personal privacy and Liberty’s values and history since its birth in 1934, and the importance of active organising when campaigning for civil liberties. The whole event was incredibly interesting and CUAI are very grateful for the opportunity of talking with her.


You can find out more about Liberty here:  https://www.liberty-human-rights.org.uk/

What have CUAI College Reps been up to in Michaelmas 2015?

What have CUAI College Reps been up to in Michaelmas 2015?

On the 21st of December 2015, the number of migrants and refugees crossing the European border officially passed the symbolic one million mark. This, combined with the daily flood of shocking images and headlines, was yet another indicator that 2015 has seen the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.

Throughout Michaelmas 2015, CUAI College Reps devoted their energy to tackling this global problem head on. Through various events and fundraisers, they successfully raised awareness about the refugee crisis and raise funds for the Cambridge Calais Refugee Action Group (CUCRAG). By the end of the term, CUAI College reps had raised a total of £390 for CUCRAG, an organisation aiming to raise awareness about refugees living in Calais camps and collect donations of clothing and other items to help the refugees. Find out more about CUCRAG and get involved here.

CUAI College Reps came up with a range of original and creative ways to spread awareness and support CUCRAG. Here are a few examples of the successful events they organised throughout Michaelmas: 

Gonville & Caius: Gofundmecampaign

College Reps Madeleine Loftchy and Tiffany Hui launched a Gofundmecampaign for CUCRAG and successfully raised £75!

Queens: QAmnesty Candle Club feat. BATS

On the 13th of November, QAmnesty teamed up with the Amateur Dramatics Society BATS and successfully resurrected the Queens’ tradition of ‘Candle Club’ – an evening of live musical and acting talent. Throughout the evening, guests were treated to a total of twenty acts, including performers from inside and outside college. The line-up of musical performers included Jonah Hauer-King, Zoe Lakota Baldwin, Clara Collingwood, Husna Rizvi, as well as some of our very own Queens’ students; Matilda Wickham, Dan Bulman, Joscelin Dent-Pooley, Anya Doherty, Ellie Coote, Helen Barker, Bobby He, Fin Williams, Tom Hiom, John Campbell, Lauren Downing, Caroline Thornham, Elizabeth Weir, and many more. Amongst the BATS stand-up comedians were Amber Dillon, Chris Turnbull and Callum Maney. With a jam-packed bar and high-class entertainment, QAmnesty managed to raise upwards of £200 for Calais refugee camps. The evening was so successful that QAmnesty organised a second Candle Club on 13th January 2016! To stay updated on this extremely dynamic Amnesty group’s activities and upcoming events, check out their Facebook page.

QAmnesty feat. BATS Candle Club


Emmanuel: Vintage Fashion Fair (with Cake Sale)

College Reps Laura Schubert and Sarah Roche decided to combine their concern for social and environmental issues by collecting donations for CUCRAG at Emmanuel’s Vintage Fashion Fair, organised on the 8th of November by Emma Green Ducks (Emma student green committee) in collaboration with the MCR Green officer (Moni Gupta). The theme of event was ‘reuse and reduce’, or as Laura put it, to present secondhand clothes as ‘an environmental and ethical solution to excess waste.’ Local charity shops kindly donated clothes, both for sale and modeling in an on-site photo booth at Emmanuel Bar. Laura and Sarah made the most of this event by hosting a cake sale at the same time, with proceeds going towards CUCRAG. As well as selling a third of their items and raising over £380 for the 13 participating charity shops, the cake sale successfully raised over £30 for CUCRAG.

Newnham: Fundraising at Newnham Smoker

College Rep Ruby Zajac seized the opportunity to support CUCRAG at the Newnham Smoker, a night of Feminist comedy organised on the 23rd October. The Smoker drew in a huge crowd of people keen to see performances by Callie Vandewiele, Mattie Weschler, Richard Perez Storey, Chris Wugh, and the stunning headliner, Grainne Mcguire. According to Ruby, the Smoker’s organisers ‘took every opportunity to mention that CUAI was fundraising for CUCRAG that evening and even let me jump on the stage with the mic and do some talking myself!’ As well as raising awareness about CUCRAG and the work they do, Ruby managed to raise £83.

Do not worry if you missed these wonderful fundraisers; with CUAI college reps already planning a host of events for 2016, Lent is shaping up to be just as exciting as Michaelmas! Look out for Sidney Sussex’s pidgeonhole surprise chocolate delivery, Corpus Christi’s chapel collections and Clare College’s collaboration with Clare Ents. If none of those options appeal to you, perhaps you might want to attend one of the film nights set at Downing, Kings’, Homerton, Murray Edwards, or Girton. If films aren’t your cup of tea, you might like to head over to one of the speaker events organized Fitzwilliam or Pembroke. And if actual tea is what your after, Kings and Girton have you covered with AmnesTea parties planned for the near future. With such a wide variety of events coming up, there will definitely be something for everyone!

If you would like to get more involved in CUAI or would be interested in becoming a CUAI College Rep do not hesitate to contact the CUAI College Reps Coordinator (Eleanor) at eh501@cam.ac.uk.

Jordan Hattar talks to CUAI

For CUAIs first meeting of term we were very excited to host Jordan Hattar, a graduate student from Trinity Hall and founder of Help4Refugees.org. Jordan’s inspiring talk outlined how he found himself setting up his own charity supported by UNHCR providing safer shelter in the form of caravans for the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, which currently is home to approximately 83,000 refugees.

Jordan’s work was prompted from collecting hundreds of refugees testimonies in the Zataari camp, which have been used by the BBC and Jordan Times. He found the most popular wish among the refugees he interviewed was to return to their homes in Syria, but in the short term to have better housing. The camp itself when Jordan started his work was submerged in water leading to unsafe and unhygienic conditions, resulting in frequent infant deaths – the need for safer housing was obvious and vital. Now, partly thanks to Jordan’s fundraising efforts, every single family in the Zaatari camp has access to a caravan.

Jordan finished his talk by taking a couple of questions, one of which was how can we help as students and activists? His answer was that we can obviously raise money for causes doing vital work, like his own and the Syrian Medical Society. However, ultimately we need to share stories and humanise the Syrian refugee crisis.

CUAI would like to say a massive thank you to Jordan and everyone who came to the event.

CUAI launches national project to campaign for the Human Rights Act!

In late 2015, CUAI launched a project to campaign to keep the Human Rights Act in response to government plans to change or scrap it. We decided to try to raise awareness of the articles included in the Human Rights Act through audio-visual media, and bring together student groups from across the country in a collaborative effort in the process. The finished projects will be released on social media when the government consultation on the HRA is announced in 2016.

So far, the project has been very successful with Amnesty International student groups from Durham University, the University of Sussex, the University of Sheffield and the University of Edinburgh all having joined the project. Everyone so far has made fabulous contributions through photo and video campaigns (still top secret!), and in Lent term 2016, we plan to put together a Quiz about the Human Rights Act in the hope of raising even more awareness and getting people talking about what the Human Rights Act really means!

“Problematic Politics” Panel Discussion 12/11/15

On the 12th of November 2015, CUAI hosted a panel discussion, “Problematic Politics”, in collaboration with Clare Politics and the Centre for Governance and Human Rights. The aim of the event was to discuss whether the work of Amnesty International ultimately does more harm than good and address whether organisations such as Amnesty International and the United Nations, and human rights theory in general, inherently imperialistic because of the nature of their inception?


Dr Sharath Srinivasan directs the University of Cambridge’s Centre of Governance and Human Rights (CGHR), and conducts research on the politics and ethics of external intervention in civil conflicts and the role of new information and communication technologies in political change.


Lucy Wake is the Government and Political Relations Manager for Amnesty International, whose role involves lobbying the UK government and Parliament on human rights issues, home and abroad. Lucy has also previously been a Board Member of the organisation, End Violence Against Women.

Professor Stephen Hopgood is the co-Director of the Centre for the International Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice (CCRJ) at SOAS and author of the ethnography, ‘Keepers of the Flame: Understanding Amnesty International’.

Dr Arathi Sriprakash is a sociologist of education, globalisation, and international development at Cambridge, whose work includes global policy sociology, feminist postcolonial theory and the politics of knowledge in international development.

Srishti Krishnamoorthy is a PhD student in English at Newnham and high-class debater, whose research interests include gender and sexuality and Postcolonialism.

For a copy of the notes taken during the event please click here (disclaimer: these notes are very rough and do include some holes!)

We were overjoyed by the turnout and were so grateful to all of our speakers for agreeing to attend what turned out to be a great event.

The consensus seemed to be that the work of Amnesty International, though not perfect, is still important. However, through this event we hoped to encourage critical thought and constant reflection on our practices as human rights activists, which is the only way to make sure sustainable progress is achieved; this is something we will aim to continue beyond this discussion and into the future.

Freshers’ Squash

Come along to the Cambridge University Amnesty International Freshers’ Squash!

Sunday 11/10/15

5-6 pm

Erasmus Room, Queens’ College

All newcomers are welcome to our first meeting where you’ll get a chance to learn about Amnesty as a global organisation, meet our members,  and hear about our plans for this term. As always, tea and snacks will be provided!

Hope to see lots of you there!

Refugee Action’s Big Night in!

Saturday, May 2nd, 5.00pm, Fawcett JCR, Newnham College

We decided to spice things up a bit at our first CUAI meeting of term, and swapped the usual tea and biscuits for a variety of dishes from around the globe in aid of Refugee Action. All of the dishes were based on recipes written and developed by refugee chefs, ranging from a Sri Lankan Wattakka curry to an Ndolé dip from Cameroon. We also sent off dozens of letters on recent urgent actions, including the unjust imprisonment of Burmese human rights activist Thein Aung Myint. The event was a huge success, and many thanks to everyone who came along!

See Facebook Event

Information on Refugee Action

Our buffet to raise money for Refugee Action


Ice&Fire Asylum Monologues 01/12/14

Ice and Fire, Amnesty UK Cambridge, CGHR and Cambridge STAR present: The Asylum Monologues.

Asylum Monologues is a first-hand account of the UK’s asylum system in the words of people who have experienced it. Launched at Amnesty International in June 2006, it has been touring the UK ever since. The script is regularly updated with new testimonies.**No part of these testimonies has been fictionalised.**

Quote from the play:
‘This waiting for the Home Office to decide, I always say that it is a diplomatic form of torture. They are not raping us, they are not burning us with cigarettes, but they are torturing us mentally, and that’s the worst.’

This event is a collaboration with:
*Amnesty UK Cambridge*
*Cambridge STAR (Student Action for Refugees)*

More about Ice and Fire: http://iceandfire.co.uk/

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