Carry my story

The project aims to develop understanding between different communities, encouraging people to see beyond ethnic, religious and heritage backgrounds and build strong, sustainable and trusting relationships at a local level.

To spend time with individuals during sessions to hear their stories associated with coming to the UK and making a new life and choose which aspects could be shared with the children.  Schools across Kirklees are linking with one another and with their neighbourhoods to share stories and experience in order to meet people they don’t already know and learn more about them.

Four hundred children from the participating schools attended this amazing celebratory event together with over 150 adults made up of staff, family members, community reps, refugees and general visitors. The event took place on two floors of a wedding venue where schools set up story stalls covered in suitcases, boxes, art work, food and artefacts. Children were able to visit one another’s installations and throughout the day all presented and performed aspects of their work, including poetry, dance, shadow theatre, song and sharing research.

At Carlton JIN school, the children invited members of their local community into school to speak about their experiences of living in Malawi and Pakistan and how it affected their identity. The children shared these stories with their partners as well as cooking dishes together from their countries of origin. At the final event, it was wonderful to see the children from Old Bank, sharing the African story having carried it. Children from Carlton shared stories from Old Bank in the form of poetry, art and music.

“These children will always have a depth of understanding of what life can be like for refugees. When they are older, they may take action to protect the rights of others. For this, we are so grateful.”

We have learned about diversity and team work and we have created amazing things. We have got to know children from Old Bank and it has helped to be better people.”Pupil from Carlton JIN.

“…what a wonderful time our children had at the event last Thursday. They enjoyed presenting the stories both through their performance of the African tale but also through talking about and explaining the stories to people who visited our table. I was really proud of them, they seemed so knowledgeable about the stories and spoke about them so articulately and with such confidence. This project has been so beneficial to my class. They have not only learnt more about themselves, how they fit into and their importance of the world but also how other people are just as valuable and important. They have learnt to value and take an interest in the differences between people and the stories which make each person unique. Thank you for allowing us to be part of such a wonderful experience!”

After quite an emotional visit, hearing Najma and her husband Farzat talking about having to leave Syria and start again in this country, a Year 4 pupil said “Don’t worry, I think you’re going to be ok, you just have to take small steps to do bigger things.”

A member of staff wrote afterwards: “Thank you so much for this afternoon. We were all touched by Farzat and Najma’s  Story. What a lovely, inspirational couple! We have had parents’ evening tonight and a lot of the parents have commented on how emotional and moved the children have been whilst relaying the story to them.”

The class teacher wrote “The children have talked about it non-stop all day, they even went outside and learned the dance that Jean (the translator who is Kurdish) did with one of my boys. They really are so happy to be doing this.”

A pupil said “It makes me angry and sad that people should treat you like that in your own country. I hope you are happy in this country.”

The children met on 5 occasions which allowed them to explore their identities together and share surprising and inspiring stories from adult members of both communities. As part of this process, children from Old Bank JIN school worked with their parents on collecting information about themselves and their families to answer the ‘Who am I?’ question.   For many of the children, it was the first time that their parents had engaged in any activity within the school. Every single child in the class had a family member with them.

Year 2 children from Netherhall School linked with a group of refugees to make a felt tree together. The tree represents the identity of the children, their school and the refugees. These two groups have loved working together and recently presented their completed tree to the whole school, parents and teachers at a special assembly. The head teacher said

Something very special has happened herebetween the children and their new friends.”

We are witnessing changes of attitude in children throughout the Carry My Story process. The involvement of refugees in the programme this year seems to have deepened the learning about what identity is and how we continually change and develop, according to circumstances in our lives and people with whom we come into contact. The children are learning that this process of change means we should never make assumptions about who and what people are. As a high school participant said last year “We never really know who anyone is until we sit down and listen to their story.”

“You shouldn’t have bad attitudes about them. Everyone’s an individual and has their own identity and story to tell. You should get to know them, not judge them on what they look like or where they come from.”  Pupil at Upper Batley High School.

For more information please contact Mashuda.Shaikh@kirklees.gov.uk or Rubina.Bhatti@kirklees.gov.uk or give them a call on 01484 221000.