Politics students providing Insight on refugees

Project Insight aims to support refugees, educate students

Project Insight volunteers.
Photo supplied by Julia Göllner

Very rarely do group projects in class become something students continue to work on after it’s due. For a group of political studies students, one assignment has gone from an idea to a reality.

Starting as a collaborative project in Professor Stéfanie von Hlatky’s International Politics class, a group of 10 students have formed Project Insight — an organization of students dedicated to arranging outreach initiatives and educating the local community about refugees. 

Julia Göllner, ArtSci ‘19, told The Journal Project Insight was formed during winter semester in POLS 261. In the class’ opening week, students were told they would be participating in an international competition called Peer to Peer Media Challenge. 

The focus of the competition was to create a media campaign that would counter some form of negative extremism, Göllner explained.

“Over the course of the semester the entire class narrowed in on one topic — we chose the very extreme negative stigma that surfaces around refugee settlements in host countries,” Göllner said.

Participants were told to plan as much as they could for their potential media campaign with a budget of $2400. A group of approximately 10 volunteers from the class worked on the competition alongside their TA, David Walsh-Pickering, in Kingston from early May to early June.

Though Project Insight didn’t qualify for the finals in the Peer to Peer Media Challenge, the idea remained important to the volunteers. Rather than give up, those involved decided to carry on with the initiatives they had begun.

According to Göllner, the group visited local high schools throughout May and June to educate younger students about refugees and show how they can get involved in support efforts.

During this time, Göllner’s role mainly involved planning events and overseeing the development of the group’s mobile application, which was presented to high school students during visits. The app simulates a situation in which North Americans are forced to flee from their homeland and take refuge in other countries.

“We were very simply flipping the traditional stereotype of people from the east coming west. We wanted to demonstrate to the kids that it is not impossible for the roles to be reversed, in hopes of changing [their] minds about the fears and concerns they may have about [refugees] coming over,” Göllner said.

In addition to high school visits and the mobile app development, Project Insight hosted a charity concert at The Brooklyn to raise funds for refugee relief.

According to Göllner, Project Insight’s next steps are to continue to raise funds through hosting charity events, as well as visiting more high schools to educate young students. Their goal is to integrate themselves more with the local refugee community with the hope that they come speak to high school students about their experience moving to Canada.

Göllner’s personal passion for the cause behind Project Insight stems from a conversation she had with Dawn Edlund, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Operations at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada at the Queen’s Refugee Relief conference in February.

“[Edlund] explained to me how she doesn’t have a conversation where someone doesn’t ask her a question about some [refugee] myth or stereotype… and how she thinks that’s the biggest step that Canadians could take in terms of having refugees integrated into the community more successfully,” Göllner said.

“I joined in hopes that just within the Kingston and Queen’s community, if we could even change one or two minds about [refugees], that would sum up why I do this.”

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