Following on from their assembly last week, Education Volunteers Patrick and Isobel Flynn returned to St Peter’s RC primary in Waterlooville to lead a ‘Welcome the Outsider’ workshop with Year 6.
Firstly, the children thought about why people in the world might have to flee or leave their own country and take often very dangerous journeys. Pupils then thought about what they would like to be when they grew up and what sort of life they would like. The classes then watched the very similar hopes and dreams of some Syrian refugee children in the short film below.
Patrick and Isobel then explained that Pope Francis has asked us to go on a special journey or pilgrimage during this Year of Mercy. By making a little pilgrimage during the workshop, the pupils would be showing that they are ‘walking alongside’ all the refugees who are forced to make very dangerous journeys to find safety and a better life.
The first stop on the children’s pilgrimage was right there in the classroom at the whiteboard where everyone gathered around a big map of the world. Pupils read out a name of a country where there is conflict at the moment and then placed a label on the map. They then said a prayer for all these places where people have to leave their homes because of violence.
The children then went into the Assembly Hall where they looked at a picture of a loaf of bread and then prayed for everyone who is hungry around the world and for people who have had to leave their homes because of climate change.
Moving outside, the children were then asked to look at what they were wearing and to think about what was in their school bag. They were asked to imagine they were being forced to leave their home by the sounds of fighting. They can’t pack, they just leave as they are. These clothes and the few things in their bag are all they will have for many weeks. After a short reflection the children then prayed for refugees on long journeys, for safe passage and at their journey’s end, a true welcome.
“We paused at the gate between St Peter’s School and the adjacent Oaklands School where we talked about our passport and our national identity. We were able to pass freely between the two schools and, in the new school year, most of the Year 6 pupils will be welcomed into Oaklands for the next stage of their education.”
The pupils then reflected on all places where people are attacked for their beliefs or their colour or their nationality. They prayed that everyone will live in harmony with each other and realise that they are all God’s children.
The pilgrimage continued into Oaklands School Chapel where the children looked a picture of a family with an empty chair. The picture is of a refugee family and the chair symbolises someone who the family has lost on the journey. The children then thought about all the families and friends who have been separated by conflict and migration and prayed that they would soon be reunited.
The pupils then moved from one end of the Chapel to the altar where Patrick and Isobel showed them a picture of the Lampedusa Cross (see above). On the 3rd October 2013, a boat carrying 500 refugees from Eritrea and Somalia, sank off the little island of Lampedusa between Tunisia and Sicily. Only 151 people survived. The local carpenter on Lampedusa met some of the survivors and then went and collected some of the wreckage of the boat. He made crosses for the survivors as a symbol of hope for the future.
Patrick and Isobel invited the children to write or draw a message of hope for refugees on paper crosses in the shape of the one that Francesco Tuccio the carpenter on Lampedusa island made. The children then laid these on the altar and finished with a special prayer.
CAFOD will dedicate their messages at a special Mass at the end of the Year of Mercy, and make sure they are shared with refugees through CAFOD’s and other networks.
When they returned to school, the children wrote an account of their pilgrimage experience in their Religious Studies books.
“We were really impressed by their compassion and the detail they captured from their ‘journey’.”
Thank you so much to everyone at St Peter’s primary for your continued support. We really appreciate all you do. Thank you too to our great volunteers Patrick and Isobel for facilitating the workshop.