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Refugee Week 2023: Putting Compassion into Action

This Refugee Week, more schools than ever got involved to dive into depth about complex issues around forced migration and take part in meaningful activities to stand in solidarity with those seeking safety.

As always A Day of Welcome guided many schools through their efforts, with schools across the UK enjoying a range of free webcasts from authors with lived experience of forced migration, a CPD session and more, along with an ever-expanding Day of Welcome resource pack and toolkit. Importantly the team behind a Day of Welcome are working hard to grow the selection of resources aimed at different regions and local areas. Make sure to sign up to keep posted about next year’s plans and read more about schools’ efforts from last year here.

In Lambeth, our Local Lead in the local authority worked with a local arts group to support schools in our network to illustrate the theme for this year’s Refugee Week – ‘compassion’. See some examples and learn more here.

In Northern Ireland, newly awarded Glengormley High School celebrated Refugee Week as part of their Diversity Week with pupils having the opportunity to taste food from Syria and Ukraine and Syrian parents taking part in a Q & A session. The school thanks Syrian parents and their Ukrainian Teaching Assistant for preparing such delicious food. You can learn more about their Diversity Week here.

In Brighton and Hove, the local authority worked with newly arrived displaced children to create an exhibition of their art work that was displayed at the local library for all the public to enjoy. Having created a variety of artwork based around themselves, their families, their countries and culture, this exhibition is a fantastic way to engage wider members of the community in understand the diverse experiences and identities of young people who have sought safety in the UK, helping to build empathy and compassion. You can read more about the project here.  

In Coventry, Blue Coat CofE School developed a ‘Cook for Syria’ Refugee Week project, with students’ cooking food from Syria and comparing it to foods they were familiar with. Students reflected on the project later:

I was very protective over the cooking of the aubergine; it needed to have a good black colour when we were charring it over the flame. (Assad)

I enjoyed following a recipe from a culture that was new to me but I could definitely see some similarities with my Portugal ancestry. (Leonor)

I enjoyed working with my friend to cook a dish that means so much to my family history. The falafels had just the right amount of garlic. (Mustafa)

The best thing about cooking dishes from my home country was the memories it brought back. (Yara)

In Exeter, with support from the City Council, Exeter City of Sanctuary organised and delivered workshops to a number of local schools, with many participating schools making orange heart displays in solidarity with people seeking safety. You can learn more about their efforts here.

 In Cardiff, St Mary the Virgin Primary School threw themselves into Refugee Week as always, with the School of Sanctuary committee composing and performing a song that they debuted at the red carpet ‘world premiere’ event they hosted after school. Read about their plans for the entire week here.

Every year, Refugee Week is a great opportunity to really celebrate being a place of welcome and to engage with and encourage others to get more involved. For schools in our networks, it’s also a great date to aim for an award celebration or annual review of all you’ve achieved that year. Make sure to invite local dignitaries, like your councilors and MP to join you so children can explain in their own words what welcome is all about and why it’s important for your school to be a School of Sanctuary.