By Caroline Hamson, Heritage Collections Officer, The Scouts.
In 2018 the Scouts Heritage Service received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant to run an exciting and innovative heritage project, ‘Moving Connections: Scouting and Displaced People’. It has led to a new generation of young people developing empathy skills and a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by displaced people.
Scouts across the globe have a proud history of supporting refugees and displaced people. In the First World War Scouts helped Belgian refugees arriving at Folkestone. Scouts across the world are still helping refugees, from the Time to be Welcome project in Greece, to the Sudanese Scouts integrating refugees to Scouting, Scouts are active in their local refugee communities.
The Scout Heritage Collection has a rich collection of objects which demonstrate the assistance given to refugees by Scouts. This project focused on a collection of objects from members of the Scout International Relief Service, who were sent to war torn countries in Europe to help in the displaced person camps.
The project kicked off on the 2 October 2018 with a workshop, which aimed to raise awareness of refugees and migrants through a series of activities. The first activity looked at a selection of famous people and the class had to work out what they had in common. They have all moved from their home country was a unanimous answer. Looking at the people in detail, the class then discovered which were refugees, and which were migrants, and the difference between the two terms.
Deciding which five items to pack if they had to flee their home, the class agreed that money would be useful! The top five things packed were money, mobile phone, games console and touchingly, a family photo.
An activity which aimed to show the class the commonalities between themselves and refugees saw them write down their likes and dislikes, and then finding matches amongst their classmates. The main commonality was that they were all human.
In the plenary the class showed they understood that refugees are just like you and I, humans. And although we might not speak the same language, we can connect with people through similar likes and hobbies. One girl when asked, ‘What would you do if a refugee joined your class?’ immediately said, “I would respect them, not judge them and be their friend”. What an amazing moment!
Jane Ray, author and illustrator, led the second workshop of the project back in October. The class were lucky enough to see some of her original illustrations, and listen to a reading of Ahmed and the Feather Girl, which led to discussions about the children’s feelings and thoughts from hearing the story. Time spent ‘Empathy Spotting’ got the class to focus on books they’d read with empathy themes, and they contributed books recommendations on luggage labels.
The afternoon was very creative. The children worked with Jane to draw a variety of facial expressions, which explored the idea of understanding feelings from people’s expressions The idea of flight, migration and freedom manifested itself in the form of ‘Wish Birds’, where the class wrote wishes for a child refugee arriving in the country, the response, “I wish everyone could be treated equally” shows the power of their understanding, and empathy skills.
Our third workshop took place at the Scouts Headquarters at Gilwell Park, Chingford. The class learnt about Scouts and Scout Leaders’ contribution on the Home Front during both World Wars, work with the Scout International Relief Service, and activity in Prisoner of War camps. We then explored objects from the Heritage Collection’s refugee and displaced person collection, which brought the learning to life. Inspired by the objects, the class created artworks, from letters thanking the Scouts, comic strips from both the perspective of a Scout and a refugee, to the Fleur-de-lys, emblematic of the Scouts and their service.
Further workshops have led to the creation of postcards, which will be sent to refugee transit camps in Greece and Sudan where Scouts are currently working, and an empathy tree which explores the empathetic vocabulary learnt by the children throughout the project.
Find out more about how Scouting has helped support displaced people and refugees by visiting our online exhibition.