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

This year, next year

23rd March marked the grim anniversary of a year in lockdown: albeit with a bit of light relief when the restrictions were relaxed over the summer. It has not been an easy year, probably, for anyone. It felt important to spend a little bit of time in our session that week looking back and looking forward. We managed to identify some positives, but overall the sense was definitely that the end of this particular period can't come soon enough!  The  very first poem we ever wrote together  as a group used colour as a tool for reflection. So does this one as we looked back at the past year and ahead to our hopes for the one to come. We were having website issues at the time (since, hopefully, resolved) so this is being posted a little later than planned. But that means it is being posted in the week in which we will, finally, be coming back together. Social distancing and facemasks not withstanding, we are very much looking forward to sharing the same physical space once more. Maybe, j