Clare Grimes is a CAFOD schools volunteer working with children in the Hallam diocese. Over the last few months Clare has been running the Year of Mercy pilgrimage with children, and has been encouraging schools to take part in the refugee action.
‘I was moved by the child who shared that his hope was to see the world at peace with no more wars.‘
Friday 17 June was a nice sunny day and I felt very happy to be visiting St Thomas More school in Sheffield to hold a ‘Welcome the stranger’ refugee workshop with a Year 6 class. Alex and Rose, two other volunteers for CAFOD were also coming to help. I had led this workshop with other schools and had excellent response and participation, so I was really looking forward to another opportunity. The children entered the hall very quietly and looked happy and expectant.
We began with a presentation of various pictures of refugees and shared the facts and figures. The children answered questions intelligently and eagerly. When asked about their hopes and dreams they were forthcoming and shared their aspirations to be actresses, doctors, teachers, just to get married, Olympic athletes, and footballers of note.
I was moved by the child who shared that his hope was to see the world at peace with no more wars.
We then showed the film/video of the refugee children and their hopes and dreams.
This is such a poignant video and the children were so captured by it. They feltsolidarity when the refugee children shared their dreams of being a doctor and a footballer as this resonated with their own hopes, and we talked about how we can pray for all refugees to help them find a daily way to be in solidarity with our refugee brothers and sisters.
We then introduced the idea of pilgrimage and had set up the various ‘stations’ around the hall. The children were so reverent and involved. We showed the pictures of Lost Family Portraits, and we talked about the empty chair in the family picture, and the idea that someone was missing. One child offered that that empty chair could be our place to be in solidarity with that family.
When we asked the children how they had experienced the pilgrimage, one said they had a learnt a lot about what it was lke to be a refugee.
Another said she liked the time to think and the quiet.
It was then time to tell them about the Lampedusa Cross and ask them to write their hopes and aspirations for the refugees. They went to various places in the hall to write these and I was impressed how silently they did this.
Their messages of hope really illustrated that they had empathised with the real needs of people who are refugees.
When the teacher came to say thank you she had tears in her eyes and Alex, Rose and I left feeling the privilege and blessing of this opportunity.
Thank you so much to Clare, Alex, Rose and all of our volunteers delivering assemblies and workshops to help children learn about and pray for refugees.