Cara - the name that means new beginnings

November 16, 2001

Cara, formerly the Academic Assistance Society, was set up in 1933 by academics and politicians, including John Maynard Keynes and William Beveridge. Academics from the London School of Economics were the main movers behind the council, contributing a proportion of their salary.

Eighteen of the refugees assisted by Cara have gone on to become Nobel laureates, including Karl Popper and Max Perutz. John Akker, executive secretary of Cara, said: "The idea of an academic community, which underpinned the early work, still exists and we have launched a major fundraising campaign to encourage academic support. Financial help is obviously important, but many academics are keen to offer moral support."

In August, 17 cases were put forward for support to the main Cara committee. Nine were successful. "We are able to help people with institutional fees, travel, equipment and research expenses," Mr Akker said. "But they do have to be academics."

In 2000-01, Cara helped 28 academics financially. Eight were from the Sudan, five from Iraq and four from Ethiopia. The rest of the academic refugees were from Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somalia, the Congo, China and Afghanistan.

Only three were women, two of whom were from Iraq and one from the Sudan. Payment of tuition fees for postgraduate courses accounts for some of the biggest grants.

One of the grantees is a paediatrician from Iraq who gave help to local Kurds and supported human rights groups. This doctor has passed sufficient exams to register with the General Medical Council, having been a consultant in Iraq.

Another academic from China fled his home because of his involvement in the pro-democracy movement. His first application for a grant to study at a university in England was turned down because of his poor English. Later, a grant from English language training was agreed. He is pursuing his studies in macroeconomic and economic theory.

Another grantee is an expert in health policy from the Sudan. One of the few women to be offered assistance, she fled to the UK after the security services seized papers at a meeting of the women's group she convened. Cara has paid her tuition fees for an MA in health policy at a London University.

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