In July 2019, we were privileged to be invited to contribute to the Awe and Wonder Day at Queen Mary’s School, Topcliffe, Thirsk. We ran workshops throughout the day, and Afghan refugee Gulwali Passarlay, who crossed Europe as a child, addressed two groups of pupils and parents. The children were aged from 5 through to the senior school.
Workshop 1 – Poetry and hospitality (Years 3 and 4)
The children explored what it is to have to flee, journey and then arrive somewhere strange, and wrote poems about how this might feel. These were transferred to a large tablecloth, representing hospitality and welcome. They also coloured paper plates to show their own favourite meals, which they would like to offer to a refugee child.
Workshop 2 – Paddington was a refugee (Years 3 and 4)
We talked about what happened to Paddington Bear and why he was a refugee, and we looked at his clothes, his name, the food he carried in his suitcase, and his label. The children then thought of 5 things they’d pack in their own case if they had to flee, and also made labels to attach to their own coats. Then they made a large Paddington collage.
Workshop 3 – Paddington was a refugee (Years 1 and 2)
These children also thought about Paddington. They made marmalade sandwiches out of coloured foam, created bunting to welcome Paddington to England, and also made a Paddington collage.
Workshop 4 – Boat-building (senior school)
See main picture above. We read an extract from the poem Home by Warsan Shire (“You have to understand, that no one would put their children in a boat unless the sea is safer than the land”) and talked about the journey across the sea to escape and the many dangers along the way.
Then the girls worked in teams to build 8 waterproofed boats out of cardboard boxes, sticks and bin bags. Once the boats were complete, they were placed on the school lake to see if the boats could make it from one side to the other without capsizing or sinking.
Presentations – Gulwali Passarlay (senior school)
Gulwali gave two talks recounting the incredible story of his arduous escape from Afghanistan to a new life in Britain, when at the age of 12 he set off from home and walked across Europe to escape the Taliban. He is now a TEDx speaker, activist, educationalist and consultant.