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Curriculum meets Charity within the Community

For its second year to date, ‘The Crossing’ by Manjeet Mann, has formed part of the year 9 English curriculum. A story of two very different teenagers from opposite worlds who find their lives are touched by the extremes of life and personal tragedy: death, grief, life’s adversities and displacement. Central to the novel is the poignant focus on life as an asylum seeker: the individual who faces testing barriers to safety and freedom. On the other hand, the writer uncovers events and feelings in an ordinary home in the UK: a sensitive young girl willing to reach out and offer sanctuary, despite her broken family and immense sense of loss.

This is the context that has produced some sensitive and impressive thinking and questioning among our year 9 students and which has led them to consider the reality that we live in today: constant headlines in the news that bring to our homes the reality of war and persecution in other parts of the world. A message that we cannot ignore and that forms part of our School of Sanctuary ethos which celebrates welcome and safety for all.

To build on their knowledge, the English department along with the School of Sanctuary lead, worked to incorporate an important reflection session from an external visitor, Rachel Miller from Mesopotamia. Being the founder of this Nottingham based charity that supports asylum seeking and refugee families in the community she was able to share her vast experience by presenting the reality of what it really means to be forced to embark on a long and difficult journey to the UK. Given the specific focus of the crossing in the novel, she also shared her knowledge of the final boat crossings to British shores. The dialogue also opened up around what asylum seekers are entitled to once they arrive here and wait for their asylum seeking applications to be processed.

Students showed a strong interest in both aspects and the questions they posed helped them make an important link between how a work of fiction can have great relevance on the reality they live in. To show their compassion and good wishes for local asylum seeking families they contributed to writing the 700 Christmas cards sent from the charity to these individuals that form part of our community.

We look forward to continuing our work with Mesopotamia in the future and growing our understanding of others through a charity that works hard to provide relief from poverty and hardship worldwide.

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