Permission to live

The theme chosen for Refugee Week 2022 was "Healing", so we explored what that word means to us. Certain themes came out very strongly ... the awareness that healing encompasses much more than just physical wellness,  the need to feel supported in order for healing to be possible , the fact that healing is a long and often slow process, the reality that even complete healing leaves scars behind, and the enduring power of hope.  Those conversations led to our latest collaboratively written poem.  Healing – Refugee Week Poem 2022 Pain wakes me up Been broken so many times Feels like I’m dying inside But hope dies last Someone stands beside me In my time of need Opens wide the door for me Lets me come inside Healing from within me Mind, body, soul Join me on this journey I am about to start When I’m still in pain It doesn’t stop me dreaming Fighting for your freedom Triumph over your fears Healing leaves its scars Even when they can’t be seen Painful memories Reminding me what I

Adventures in Liverpool

Most of our school visits happen close to home, but recently, together with the Columbans, a few of us had the opportunity to spend three days in Liverpool, at the invitation of Bellerive School. We arrived by train late morning on Sunday for a full day of sightseeing around the city (and learning to understand a Liverpudlian accent!) before heading to meet our hosts, the FCJ sisters where a very warm welcome awaited.  On Monday we had a full day in school with back-to-back encounters with groups of students, topped off with a staff meeting after school, and after dinner there was a further invitation to share our stories with the sisters and those who joined them for their evening service. We were certainly ready to relax and put our feet up by the end of the day. We started Tuesday with a later breakfast and then a trip to the Liverpool Slavery and Maritime museums before heading back to the school for further encounters with students. A rough estimate puts the number of pupils we me

Reflections on Encounter

Recently we had the opportunity, together with the Columbans, to share something about our work facilitating encounters and the difference it makes on the programme Just Life on Radio Maria.  Akram, who contributed to the broadcast, described the experience like this: Being interviewed on a live broadcast on radio Maria was a terrifying feeling especially for a non English speaker. At the same time, it was a great opportunity to reflect the truth and correct some misconceptions. Also to let listeners have first-hand information about how the system works in the UK regarding asylum seekers and refugees. You can listen to the recording here.

The year that was 2021

Our website / blog has been distinctly neglected: not because we have nothing to share, quite the contrary! What a rich and busy year last year was and with all sorts of exciting projects in the pipeline this year is shaping up to be even bigger, busier and better! Numbers can never really tell our story, which is far better represented by the individual human stories, the shared moments, the encounters and the reunions, the conversations and community, the laughter and sometimes the tears, the being together ... but here's a few of the numbers that give a tiny part of the picture of the year 2021: Our single greatest achievement is that this group of people with their diverse cultures, religions, genders, ages and situations describe themselves as one family. Our trips included two residential "Festivals of Encounter" which brought together project participants with others for times of shared learning and the building of community ... and lives were genuinely changed by

A Festival of Encounter

I'm not sure I can even begin to sum up the experience in a couple of hundred words in a blogpost the story of our Festival of Encounter at St Cassian's Centre, Kintbury, meant to those who participated. It was a truly magical three days.  At some point, I might try, but for now, I'm just going to leave you with the words of some of those who participated: 

A plan and a plea ...

We have all learned much about ourselves and one another in the past year: the things we want and need, the things we miss when they are taken away. I suspect many, if not all, of us have learned a deeper appreciation for time spent with others: for quality time with family, friends, those we love; and also for all those opportunities to meet new people which have been stripped away.  I suspect many, if not all, of us have learned a deeper appreciation for opportunities to get away from our everyday surroundings: however much we love our own home, we've maybe all had enough of those same four walls. That sense has undoubtedly been exemplified for some, depending on the level of comfort and security those four walls provide. And so, many of us have reached the summer with plans to gather, and plans to get away. We watch the weather forecast and covid rates with a sense of trepidation. We hope. The Stories of Hope and Home group are no different, in that sense, that anyone else and w

Soaring with Clipped Wings

A very busy and very beautiful Refugee Week has just drawn to a close (if I get myself organised, there'll be another post to follow about the many highlights of that!)  But refugee week also marked the end (or is it the beginning!) of a long project ... our poetry book is now in print and available for sale!  The book contains all the poems we have written over the past 18 months. Some are written by individuals, but most were written collaboratively during our sessions. In total, we think 36 people of 22 different nationalities were involved. It is the result of many, many conversations, the sharing of stories and experiences, a whole lot of laughter, and a few tears. It is also the result of one of the group exclaiming earlier in the year "we should publish this!" an exclamation that stands as testament to their growing confidence and sense of self-worth and their increasing awareness that their words have value and deserve, perhaps even need, to be heard.  Copies cost