Continuing our Refugee Week of guest curators for Zeph@10, today’s thoughts come from Amy Harris, actor, adventurer and Zeph Associate, who you may have seen featuring in some of our Refugee Week videos.
Amy helped us to get Refugee Voices up and running in the early days. Thanks to her for taking the helm this morning!
Many moons ago I worked for a creative arts charity called The Saltmine Trust in their family theatre company which went by the name of Red Balloon. A regular fixture in our diary was a couple of schools outreach weeks in Malvern and Weymouth. These generally consisted of 15 shows in 15 primary schools in 5 days which were followed up by local teams delivering a workshop on a topic relating to the play. Whilst we were hitting the primary schools, another team including people from the Zephaniah trust would be visiting the secondary schools. These weeks were always full on and I realised early on it would be laughing a lot that would get me through them! I knew I would be okay when I first met John Froud and others from Zephaniah. Laughter
was high on the agenda.
Following this first meeting Red Balloon travelled up to Bradford for a week of shows and workshops. This, I think is where I met Julie for the first time (I should add a disclaimer that Julie is very memorable but I have a terrible memory so this might not be true!) More weeks in Malvern, Weymouth and Bradford followed, and these have all been part of what has been a beautiful relationship with Zephaniah.
I am proud and honoured to be an associate artist, and to have helped out at holiday clubs, assemblies and workshops over the years, plus having the trusts support when bringing my own shows to the region.
All of this it to say that when Zephaniah ask me if I want to help out/get involved in something, I don’t have to think very hard about it. The only reason I would ever say no would be due to being unavailable.
Thank goodness I was available when a few years ago (how many Julie? – terrible memory see!), Julie asked me if I would like to be involved in her latest project; Refugee Voices. “Oooh yes”, I thought. “I know about refugees and asylum seekers, that will be a fab thing to be involved in.”
Julie sent me the script and I began to think about how we might put that on, and what acting exercises/games we might use with the children to get them bonding and working as a team, as well as giving their best rendition of the play at the end of the week. I confess to not doing much research into refugees and asylum seekers. I thought I knew.
Cut to a classroom of year 7’s early in the Refugee Voices week, and a ‘Myth Busting’ session.
‘Most asylum seekers will seek refuge in the country nearest them and it is poor countries not the rich west who take the majority of refugees.’
Oh. I thought I knew.
‘Asylum seekers survive on around £5 per day.’
Oh. I thought I knew.
‘Asylum seekers cannot work while they wait for their application to be decided.’
Oh. I thought I knew.
Later in the week we had a visit from a lady who was granted refugee status after 9 years of waiting. 9 years. Let me say that again. 9 years.
9 years she waited in limbo, not knowing if she was going to be able to stay or was going to be deported back to the country she had fled in fear of her life. She hadn’t been able to see her daughter in all that time.
This lady who you would expect to be angry and bitter and sad and hopeless shared her story with warmth, generosity, openness and even humour. I was in awe.
I had an incredible week during that first Refugee Voices week and learning alongside me were an amazing bunch of year 7’s whose minds were blown as much as mine on a day to day basis as we asked questions about our script and about how refugees and asylum seekers are treated and what we could do better. It was a privilege to present some real stories through the script, and a joy to see the reaction of the students who watched the final performance and also had their minds blown. I am so glad I got to be part of it again this year, all be it in a more remote way.
Refugee Week is a great opportunity to teach ourselves, to learn, to access resources for discussion and to think about what we can do as individuals and organisations to be more welcoming to those who through no fault of their own, have had to leave their homes, theirfriends, their families and their way of life. We are honoured to have them as our neighbours.
Check out some more of Zephaniah’s work and resources.
We think we know.
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ***‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’*** All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Matthew 22: 34-40
A huge thank you to Amy for making us think this morning – and for her other contributions to our resources this Refugee Week! Have good days, Zephyrs – and remember, one small thing can help to change the world…