This Refugee Week, Lyn Adams (Assistant to the Chief Executive at Refugee Action) found herself faced with the daunting task of teaching primary school aged children about refugees. In Lyn’s own words, here’s how it all went:
In response to a short paragraph in my grandson’s school newsletter, I volunteered to go into his class during Refugee Week and talk about refugees and Refugee Action. To be honest, I didn’t think my offer would be followed up, but little did I know what awaited – one session with one class very quickly turned into 10 sessions with classes and groups from the whole school, from nursery to Year 6! I was most terrified of the nursery – how do you engage with 3 and 4 year olds on this subject? Fortunately, Jim Glennon (our National Volunteer Co-ordinator) came up with a simple concept involving a world map and stickers.
So, armed with maps, stickers, a good supply of Refugee Action balloons, and my 8 year old grandson (my “helper” for the day) I did the first session with some Year 3 pupils. Let’s just say that my idea of how to use the balloons (based on the STAR balloon game) went out of the window there and then! Uproar and mayhem ensued, and I’m sure the teachers were regretting my visit for the rest of the morning. But from then on, things went really well.
Most of the 10 sessions ended in small groups, talking about how the children would welcome a refugee child, and what they thought a refugee child would need. Some of their ideas, and their enthusiasm, brought me close to tears. Here are just a few:
- I’d show them round the school
- I’d let them stay in my house
- I’d throw a party for them
- I’d get my mum to bake one of her delicious cakes
- I’d share my toys with them
- I’d ask them their name and if they wanted to play with me and my friends
- I’d stop them being bullied, and stop other children calling them names
- I’d translate for them (some of the children volunteered the fact that they already did this at home)
- I’d take them to the library so that they might be able to get books in their own language
The one that really got to me was “They would need love and affection”. We also talked about what children might need to bring with them if forced to flee their homes – and on a lighter note, many of the children described their Wii or Playstation as one such “essential” item!
During one of the small group discussions a boy told me that he was a refugee, to which the boy next to him exclaimed excitedly that his mum, dad, uncles and aunties were all refugees too. They both looked surprised and happy at their newfound bond.
If anyone is thinking of doing something like this, I cannot recommend it too much. It’s something that I am definitely going to do again next year, perhaps at a different school, and perhaps with a different “helper” ….
Assistant to Chief Executive