Brookes alumna celebrated as part of I am a Refugee campaign

Monday, 20 June 2016

Melody Hossaini with her IAAR plaque

Oxford Brookes University is taking part in a national campaign celebrating the contribution of refugees to British society which launches today (20 June) – World Refugee Day.

The I am a Refugee campaign, launched by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) recognises refugees including singer Rita Ora, designer and model Alek Wek and author Judith Kerr, with a series of plaques which will appear on buildings across the UK during Refugee Week (20-26 June) and in an exhibition at St Paul’s Cathedral. 

The campaign will see nine plaques, along the lines of the English Heritage blue plaques, placed on buildings where refugees have lived worked or studied. A plaque representing Oxford Brookes alumna and social entrepreneur Melody Hossaini has been placed on the University’s John Henry Brookes Building for the duration of the campaign. 

Melody, who graduated in 2006 said: "I am genuinely so pleased to be supporting the I am a Refugee campaign. Amidst the misleading and frankly, mostly, unfair portrayal of refugees and immigrants, I feel it a moral duty for us to celebrate the contribution that so many of them have made to the British communities and economy. 

I am a refugee pop-up exhibition at St Paul's Cathedral“Through my work at InspirEngage International, I am honoured to speak to a wide range of audiences as part of my international speaking tours, sharing my story of starting as a war refugee, to helping more than a million young people fulfil their potential by giving back. During my 18 years in the people development sector, we have reinvigorated the education system to make learning real, changed policies to benefit young people, advocated the rights of the most vulnerable on world stages, as well as helped thousands into careers with purpose. I am proud of this contribution and would welcome partnerships to do more. 

“During my years in the UK, I look fondly back to my university days and studying Law at Oxford Brookes University - hence choosing this as the location for my plaque. I have been back several times since and delivered our InspirEngage Skills Bootcamp for their students, and am always happy to be back!"

During my years in the UK, I look fondly back to my University days and studying Law at Oxford Brookes University - hence choosing this as the location for my plaque. I have been back several times since and delivered our InspirEngage Skills Bootcamp for their students, and am always happy to be back!

Melody Hossaini, social entrepreneur and Oxford Brookes University alumna

Melody, who is a social entrepreneur and professional speaker, fled war-torn Iran with her family during the Iran-Iraq War aged three. Her family first arrived in Sweden, before later moving to the UK. Starting a new school at 13, Melody struggled with English as her third language and was bullied for being different. She invested her energy into making a difference in her community, and co-founded the UK Youth Parliament. This started ten years of volunteering and working to change policies and laws to benefit young people. 

Today, Melody’s work has reached more than one million people in over 100 countries. In 2009, Melody launched the social enterprise InspirEngage International, which aims to re-define success and the path to it, by helping people become more confident, socially enterprising and ready for work. In 2013 she launched Social Enterprise Revolution, the UK’s first programme to embed social enterprise into the school curriculum. 

Melody has trained female domestic violence victims, homeless young people and inmates in prison. She has also worked with companies including GE, Philips and Facebook, with the aim to increase social awareness. She is currently touring with a signature presentation, How To Change the World. Recently, she inspired and encouraged a group of refugees to write a book and launch their own social enterprise to support their community. 

IAAR Plaque

In 2011, Melody became the first social entrepreneur to appear on the BBC’s The Apprentice. In 2015 she was named by the European Parliament as New European’s Most Influential Woman. Melody is a regular media commentator, writer and guest speaker.

Saira Grant, Chief Executive at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said: “By illustrating the array of experiences that refugees have had, and the dedication, creativity, skills and knowledge that they bring to their new society, this powerful visual campaign has been designed to help create a positive and balanced debate around the contribution of refugees in the UK.”

More information about the campaign can be found on the I am a Refugee website where refugees are invited to share their stories and create their own plaques to be included on the website.  JCWI is an independent national charity established in 1967. Since its inception is has promoted justice and fairness immigration, nationality and asylum law and policy.

Images:  The I am a refugee exhibition at St Paul's Cathedral, Melody's plaque on the John Henry Brookes Building,