The international migrant crisis in southern Europe may have faded from the headlines in recent months, but the humanitarian challenge remains, Old Elizabethan Nicholas Millet reminded QE boys when he returned to his alma mater.
Nick (OE 2001–2008) co-founded Refugee Education Chios, which provides education, support and training for teenagers and young adults living on the Greek island of Chios, which became a de facto detention centre after the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement.
The project offers safe places – a youth centre and a learning centre – outside the Vial detention camp, reaching up to 250 children and youth aged up to 22 each week. Both centres tailor their work to the refugees’ particular needs, with, for example, the learning centre offering a trauma-sensitive curriculum and the youth centre helping teenagers develop trusting relationships and confidence in their own abilities and skills.
He spoke to boys in the middle years of QE about the charity’s work and about the migrant crisis in general, highlighting the ongoing nature of the problem, which, he said, was all too easily forgotten.
Thanking him for his visit, Head of Academic Enrichment Nisha Mayer said afterwards: “Nick provided an enormously insightful and, at times, emotional talk, which was a good reminder of the importance of being involved with humanitarian causes.”
Nick first got involved in the refugee relief work before the 2016 agreement came into force. Inspired to take action to help refugees by a weekend visit to the ‘Jungle’ camp at Calais, he put his successful career as a management consultant on hold and flew to Chios, which lies just 7km off the mainland of Turkey.
The island was the arrival point for the highest number of refugees after Lesbos, with up to 1,500 men, women and children making the journey across the Aegean Sea every night at that time. During his talk, Nick showed the boys photographs of refugees arriving on Chios, often in perilously overloaded rubber dinghies. Other images revealed the poor conditions in the camp.
Nick, of Stanmore, has a history of involvement in humanitarian projects. Shortly after leaving QE, he spent time at the Sri Sathya Sai School – a village school in Kerala, India, which QE has supported since 2002. And, while he was reading for the Politics, Psychology and Sociology Tripos at Cambridge, he undertook research for the Grameen Bank, the Nobel Prize-winning microfinance organisation based in Bangladesh which works to help the poor.
On his most recent visit to QE, Nick mentioned especially the desperate plight of lone child refugees, telling the boys: “Children are sent because their parents can’t afford for the whole family to escape.”