The Multaka-Oxford refugee project, which seeks to provide opportunities for refugees and asylum seekers settling in Oxford, has recently received £1 million from Alwaleed Philanthropies, a charity co-founded and chaired by Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal. The initial project was funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund until 2019, with new £1 million from Alwaleed Philanthropies allowing the project to continue its work for another five years.
In light of this announcement, Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford has stated: “The support of Alwaleed Philanthropies is a strong and welcome endorsement of the Multaka-Oxford project, the work of the museum teams and the contribution of our many volunteers. The project offers mutual benefit both to the University and to the volunteers. We are very grateful to Alwaleed Philanthropies for their support.”
Founded in 2017, the Multaka-Oxford project supports refugees who have recently arrived in Oxford. Working as Arabic and English tour guides at the Pitt Rivers Museum and the History of Science Museum, refugees are given the opportunity to develop English language proficiency and new skills. The program works in collaboration with local organisations such as Asylum Welcome and Refugee Resource. First inspired by Multaka: Museum as Meeting Point in Berlin, the Multaka-Oxford project has “helped to train almost 100 volunteers, many of whom have moved on to gain work, start a degree, or develop new aspirations for their own futures” since its commencement, according to Pitt Rivers Museum. The project hopes to enrich the understanding of museum collections by integrating the perspectives offered by those with a migrant background and engage in intercultural dialogue. In 2019, the Multaka-Oxford initiative won the Collections Trust Award and the Museums + Heritage Award for Volunteer Team of the Year.
Over the next five years, Multaka-Oxford aims to establish a UK Multaka network and “recruit, train and support a new team of 200 volunteers from across Oxfordshire”. Similar Multaka projects currently exist in 15 museums across Europe — more information regarding these museums can be found here.