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‘A Day of Welcome’ expands across the region

Published: 27 May 2021 at 14:00

Lord Ashcroft Building in Cambridge

ARU project about Spanish Civil War child refugees is basis for schools’ event

Schoolchildren across Cambridgeshire, Essex and Norfolk will learn about the important role this region has played in offering a safe haven for refugees during a ‘A Day of Welcome’ this summer.

Academics from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) have worked with Norfolk Schools of Sanctuary to help develop and expand ‘A Day of Welcome’, which will take place on Friday, 11 June.

Over 60,000 Norfolk schoolchildren have taken part in ‘A Day of Welcome’ since it was launched in 2018 and this year, for the first time, the initiative is also being offered to more than 700 schools across Cambridgeshire and Essex.

This year’s resources are inspired by the Basque child refugees who came to the East of England to escape the Spanish Civil War.  Some of these stories have been collated as part of the Havens East project https://havenseast.org/ led by Dr Jeannette Baxter of ARU, which was launched as an online exhibition last year for Refugee Week.

Schools in Essex will receive a special resource about the Basque children who sought a safe haven at Theydon Bois, while schools in Cambridgeshire will learn about how local volunteers worked tirelessly to house and help the Basque children.

The aim of ‘A Day of Welcome’ is to build understanding of the experiences and contributions made by refugees and asylum seekers, uncover and celebrate little-known stories of refugee migration, and signpost Refugee Week events which pupils, families and staff may wish to participate in.

Compiled by teachers, free lesson plans and assembly ideas will help schools to engage their pupils with the complex issues surrounding displacement and migration, and the resources will be available for schools to use throughout the year.

Dr Baxter, Associate Professor in English Literature at ARU and co-lead of ‘A Day of Welcome’ said:

“It’s particularly exciting to extend this year’s ‘A Day of Welcome’ to school communities across Essex and Cambridgeshire because both counties have long played an important role in welcoming refugees and asylum seekers.

“Our specially designed resources will offer students the chance to engage with these overlooked stories of our collective history, and help them to make connections between stories of refugee migration, past and present, local and global.” 

As part of ARU’s events to mark Refugee Week, Dr Baxter will discuss the research unearthed during the Havens East project in an online talk with Dr Ed Packard, of the University of Suffolk, on Thursday, 17 June (7.15pm), and she will host an online talk with local artist Ian Wolter on Monday, 14 June (7pm).

The ARU Cambridge School of Art graduate created the sculpture The Children of Calais, which is on display outside St Mary’s Church in Saffron Walden.  During the talk he will discuss the inspiration for the artwork and how it can be used to raise awareness and provoke discussion about the refugee crisis. 

For further information about ARU’s Refugee Week events and to reserve a place at one of the free talks, please visit www.aru.ac.uk/events.