Tag Archives: Refugees

Words of hope

Tonight I set myself one of the hardest writing tasks I’ve ever faced. And even just writing that makes me wince at my misconception of hardship.

I like to think I’m pretty good with words. I’d go so far as to say they’re my ‘thing’. But there are times when they are so woefully inadequate that they may as well not even exist.


Tonight I have been writing letters to refugees. Cards, actually. I thought that if I could maybe encapsulate my words in a whole package of hope and solidarity then maybe their inherent flimsiness would be less noticeable.

Because, honestly, what do you say?

What do you say to someone whose roof has been ripped from over them whilst you sit in the warmth and the comfort of your own four walls?

What do you say to someone whose children are struggling to survive when you have spent the evening delighting in filling an advent calendar for your own precious one?

What do you say to give someone hope when you cringe at the state of the world every time you look at the news?

In the end it was only hope that made any sense. Despite the odds stacked against humanity by fear and greed and mistrust, hope is the only thing we have to hang on to.

I fumbled through my words, and then – as I so often do – borrowed those of someone else to say what I really wanted to.

Emily Dickinson always stops me in my tracks, and this stanza is one of my very favourites.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all – “

Tomorrow I will take my cards, and my words, down to the sorting centre in Brixham where volunteers are making sense of the bags and bags of donations ready to send them to Lesvos, where hopefully they might provide some respite for refugees. The plan is that each box on the palette we send will contain a message from someone here, someone who is living in safety and in disbelief that our world can treat other humans as badly as we do.

Each palette, each box, each card, will hardly make a dent in the ocean of need: I wrote ten messages tonight; approximately 400,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Lesvos so far this year.

But they might just bring some hope. And whilst we’re busy working out what else to do, there are worse things to leave in our stead.


I’ve put together some resources to help teachers tackle the refugee crisis in the classroom. Please help yourself if you think you can use them!

If you would like to find out more about how you can help, please visit the Humanity Has No Borders website. Thank you. 


Writing Bubble

Inspiring teachers, inspiring change

When I was teaching, one of my favourite parts of the job was writing resources: designing activities, constructing lessons, developing whole schemes of learning. In a profession that regularly came under fire from different angles, it was a way of maintaining some semblance of control. And I enjoyed the creativity it required – the challenge of fitting all of the different external requirements into activities that I felt were genuinely a good use of my – and my students’ – time. Above all it was a way of ensuring that I could be the teacher I wanted to be – both in the content I taught, and how it was delivered.

As well as offering plenty of opportunities for developing different skills, the subjects I taught – English, Media and Drama – lent themselves well to exploring ‘issues’. I felt that a vital part of my role was engaging students in the world around them; opening their eyes to things they might not otherwise know about, and challenging the status quo. There was something very political about it, though not in the sense of trying to impose my views on others. What I strove to do was to get young people asking questions, to present them with a range of resources but equip them also with the tools they needed to find things out for themselves.

Though I’m extremely busy not teaching at the moment, the burgeoning refugee crisis we are currently facing has made me long to be back in the classroom. It really bothers me that the mainstream media presents such a narrow (often heavily biased) range of views, and that depending on the online circles people move in the (mis)information on social media can be even worse. And it bothers me too that with the avalanche of new demands teachers have faced in recent years they might struggle to find time to tackle these issues with young people.

So, as the most recent draft of my novel neared completion, I found my mind wandering to a scheme of learning I’d been involved in writing some years back. We called it ‘Refugees and the Media‘, and the focus was on trying to uncover the truth behind the headlines which were – at the time – often extremely biased against refugees and asylum seekers.


It needed updating, and reining back in after various evolutions, but I thought it might be one thing I could do to attempt to make just a small difference in the lives of the people who are affected by our misconceptions.

The title of this blog post might be ambitious, but it is this that I am attempting to do: to inspire teachers to use some of their time in the classroom to open up discussion around the way in which meaning is constructed in the media, particularly around refugee issues, so that they might inspire their students to think differently, and that through them we might begin to inspire change in our world.

I’ve decided to share the resources here on my blog. They’re not especially groundbreaking, and they borrow from a range of different sources, but they are comprehensively researched and tried and tested in the classroom. So if you are a teacher and you think you might be able to use them, then please do. And if you know anyone else that might find them useful, then please pass them on.

It’s hard to know how to make a difference these days – sat here at my keyboard rather than stood at the front of a classroom – but I’m hoping that this might just be one small way I can.


Writing Bubble

Sunday Photo: 15th November 2015


Today saw the beginning of the festive season for us with a Christmas Market organised by Humanity Has No Borders as part of their fundraising efforts to send aid to refugees.

There was something incredibly poignant about watching everybody have fun given the global events of the past few days, but at the same time it felt particularly important to be standing in solidarity with those seeking refuge from precisely the kind of terror that suddenly feels very close to home.

The outpouring of sadness on social media that followed the Paris attacks has, predictably and frustratingly, been accompanied by a fresh wave of fear and hate – calls to ‘close the borders’ by people who are ‘not racist, but…’.

I imagine this is precisely the impact that the perpetrators of such horrific crimes hope to have: to stir up negative emotions, break down natural human bonds and drive wedges between people and nations.

I hope for something different. I hope that my beautiful son might grow up in a world that recognises all humans as equal, wherever they happen to be born. I hope that his future may be filled with compassion and generosity, not with fear and greed.

Our Town Hall was filled with hope today, and the compassion and generosity of our community shone through. Already local people have donated enough aid to fill approximately one thousand boxes with supplies that could make all the difference to people struggling to survive in refugee camps in Greece: now we just need to get it there.

If you would like to help you can find more information at www.humanityhasnoborders.org.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

                                Martin Luther King, Jr.


Linking up today’s post with Darren at One Dad 3 Girls for My Sunday Photo and Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Why doing nothing is not an option

Like many people I know, my sense of reality was jolted when the image of three year old Aylan Kurdi, dead on a Turkish beach, began to wash across my social media feeds.

I have not been oblivious to the growing refugee crisis, nor the politics which has caused it, but it was that image that really made me sit up and take notice. The innocence, the helplessness, the sense of vanquished hope. And, more than a little bit, the way in which that poor boy’s lifeless body resembled that of my son as he sleeps.


There has been scepticism of course: why should this image suddenly trigger such an outpouring of emotion when 10,000 Syrian children have died in this conflict so far? Why should the sinking of this boat be any different to the hundreds of others that have met the same fate? But for whatever reason, it touched a chord – as powerful images so often do. And the real galvanising moment for me – more than the image itself – was our government’s response to it. That Cameron could stand his ground and insist that we, as a country, would not be offering asylum to any more refugees was the thing that made me realise that we, as a country, needed to take a stand.

I’ve been thinking about it, and it’s only really the second time in my life that I have been moved to really engage with politics on a grassroots level. The first was with the Stop the War Coalition back in the early 2000s. It feels like a lifetime ago, but of course the atrocities we were campaigning against then have directly influenced the state the world finds itself in now.

It feels like there is a similar sense of camaraderie emerging, a belief that we as individuals can have some influence on the power of the state. And this time we have an incredible bank of ammunition at our fingertips that we didn’t have before: that of social media.

Thanks to Facebook and Twitter, I have found a home for a collection of musical instruments I’d been tasked with distributing in the wonderful Music Against Borders group. I have discovered that there are numerous people in my little town who care just as much as I do, and am working to put together relief packages to give to those of them who are willing to coordinate the delivery of goods to Calais and further afield. And I am preparing to take my two year old son on his first political March in London on the 12th of September, linking up with like-minded friends who I otherwise may not have even known were planning on going too.

And then there’s my blog. It’s been languishing for a little while whilst I work out what to do with it. The blogosphere can, at times, feel so filled with flim flam that adding your own contribution to the mix really doesn’t seem so worthwhile. But then I was asked to be involved in the Save Syria’s Children campaign and everything began to fall into place.

Whatever the politics, whatever the fears of the Western world for their own comforts and security, there are hundreds of thousands of people who are simply desperate to find a better life – no, scratch that, a LIFE for their children.

I thought about those children, about Aylan and Galip and the thousands more like them, as I tried to persuade Arthur to sit still for long enough for me to take his picture for this campaign. As his little spirit fought against everything I asked of him, I tried to imagine what it could possibly be like to cajole a toddler to sit calmly through an endless ocean crossing, crammed into a tiny boat and surrounded by terror. I can only imagine that the terror must be contagious, that those tiny children are just paralysed by the fear emanating from all of the brave and wonderful adults around them who are doing everything they can to find a place of safety.

I think we need to help those adults, those parents and uncles and aunts and grandparents. We need to help them keep their children safe.

This campaign is just a tiny part of the colossal efforts being undertaken by Save the Children to find some way of compensating for the despicable hand the world has dealt the children of Syria.

You can help in so many different ways, but here are just two of them:

  • Share an image of a child who is important to you to bring home the message that those 10,000 dead Syrian children, and the millions more at risk, are first and foremost children, and human beings.
  • Text 70008 and the word SYRIA to donate £5 to the Save the Children campaign.

Do something to help.


Whatever you decide, don’t choose apathy.