At The Abbey, we have been working as a School of Sanctuary for the past three years and have built a community that understands the issues faced by people seeking safety. Over the past four years we have worked with many charities and groups to raise money, collect donations, do outreach work, campaign and raise awareness both in our school community and our wider community. Our pupil’s lives have been enriched by the experiences and the people they have met through this journey.
Last year we eagerly followed Little Amal’s journey weekly in school and completed our own sponsored walk covering the distance between Calais and Erdington to give us an understanding of the epic scale of Amal’s journey.
With asylum, refugees and migration taking centre stage in the news recently, our pupils have campaigned vigorously against the new Nationality and Borders Bill, the forced deportations to Rwanda and the right to work (Lift the Ban). We are constantly calling for compassion to be shown and making a stand – to show that this hostile environment is not who we are! Refugee Week represents a chance to celebrate the rich and diverse contribution refugees make as well as recognise the perilous journeys they undertake to reach safety.
We decided the focus for our celebration of Refugee Week this year would be through an Afghan kite flying event, suggested by Barbara Forbes of the Schools of Sanctuary network. We were ecstatic when we heard that Little Amal the giant puppet of a Syrian refugee girl would be visiting the Abbey as her first stop on her return visit to Birmingham. Little Amal has walked over 8,000km since she started her epic walk from Turkey in July 2021.
On Thursday 23rd June Little Amal met the children and participated in a joyful mass kite flying event. Kite flying is a national sport in Afghanistan, and this was chosen to represent the culture of one of the many countries which people have had to flee. Kites made by the pupils were visible pledges and a symbol of hope and freedom. Children also created a beautiful outdoor gallery art wall inspired by refugee artists, and shared poetry written by local charity ‘Stories of Hope and Home’ and by the pupils. We were thankful to share the day with members of our local community including local Councillors Robert Alden and Gareth Moore, Six Ways Baptist Church, and St Edmund Campion School. The visit ended with the children teaching Little Amal the actions to two of their favourite songs.
Reflecting on the day, J said “We got to meet Little Amal in person, and it really lifts your spirits!”
G said, “Refugee week reminds us it’s really important to welcome the stranger into a new community.”
A said “We welcome refugees, and we welcome everybody.”
L said, “We want everyone to feel part of our community, and not to feel left out.”
We hope that our event has helped to draw attention to the issues and needs of displaced people around the world as we call on everyone to show love and compassion to all our brothers and sisters.