Friday 11 November 2022

Another Arabic language - and culture - workshop in Falmouth

  Back at Falmouth Primary School today for a further assembly and classroom workshops in Arabic with the wonderful Rawda Alater, who arrived in Truro from Lebanon and Syria about six years ago.

There are several native Arabic speakers at the school and they helped today.  Here is a Syrian student in Year 6 having a conversation with a classmate - a few easy phrases that the native English speaker learned in minutes. 

We had our Arabic language postcards to hand out - and we realised that some children had been practising overnight with siblings we had worked with yesterday.  

It was wonderful to see the children's enthusiasm - and eagerness to learn.

Thursday 10 November 2022

Learning about Syria - and Arabic - in Falmouth


A valuable morning at Falmouth Primary School in west Cornwall this morning with the wonderful Rawda Alater, who spoke about her life in Syria and her subsequent experience in the UK. She answered children's questions - and even taught a bit of Arabic.

In at least two classes there were Arabic speakers. In one, a child from Saudi Arabia spoke no English at all and was delighted to be able to chat with Rawda. As the rest of us listened, we realised what it must feel like to be 'the one' who doesn't understand. It's a strange and disconcerting experience - and one that non-English speaking children must come up against when they first arrive here.

Rawda spoke about the difference between schools in this country and in Syria. In Syria, children don't have hot dinners at school. The opposite - they take a packed lunch of flat bread and maybe cheese. Houses don't have curtains and carpets. It's hot. Life is different.

Rawda explained how she felt when she arrived as a refugee in Truro from Lebanon, where she'd been living for five years since she left the war in Syria in 2010.

She was afraid to open the door, she said, because she didn't understand a word of English.

Together this morning we learned how to say hello, how are you! And with the help of Arabic speaking pupils, wrote a few words in Arabic on the flip chart.

Thursday 3 November 2022

Family researchers uncover long-lost history


Nearly 106 years after her death,  a photo has been discovered of Maybelle Stoneman - one of the two young women who were killed in a factory in the National Explosives Factory, Hayle, on 20 December 1916.

The factory at the time was producing munitions for the Front and was one of the largest in the country – part of a huge war effort to manufacture much-needed ordnance. Click here to read the accident which killed four people - May Stoneman, Cissie Rogers, George Perry and James Cock.

Ray Rogers, the great nephew of Cissie Rogers and Kay Gibbons, the niece of May Stoneman, have been researching this story since we started to uncover local stories during the centenary of the end of World War One. Our website Heart of Conflict gathers together these stories.

Kay’s maiden name was Stoneman and her father was May’s younger brother, Henry James Stoneman, who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1930’s.

It is thanks to both Ray and Kay, who have formed networks with other cousins and descendants, that this photo has been uncovered.  Local communities can now learn more about this story - and see a picture of the young woman who died, something that we never imagined that we would be able to do when we started to research the story and found their grave in Phillack.  Very many thanks to Ray and to Kay, and to other descendants who have worked so hard on this.


Thursday 20 October 2022

Teaching Romanian in Camborne

Great to be back at St John's Catholic Primary School in Camborne, west Cornwall, to teach a few phrases of Romanian - so that children could welcome any newcomers to the school who spoke no English.

Mirabela from Bucharest, who has been working with us since before the pandemic, led the assembly. And she had two willing young helpers who had arrived at the school from Romania just a couple of years earlier, themselves without any English....

We left language postcards at the school so that children could take them home to practise the phrases that they had learned.

Sunday 2 October 2022

Saturday 27 August 2022

A photography workshop for overseas nurses in Truro


A damp but exciting afternoon in Truro, west Cornwall, on Wednesday 24 August. Overseas nurses from the Royal Cornwall Hospital met up with Penzance-based photographer Mike Newman for a photography workshop with a difference. The nurses - here to provide an essential boost to hospital staff - had a unique and much-needed chance to meet and interact with local people - and learn some new skills at the same time.
After a few top tips from Mike and a cream tea at the Hall for Cornwall, Michael Apas, Chloe Mickelson and Ace Gonzales– all from the Philippines – ventured out despite the rain into the market to meet traders, chat and take photographs of them and their stalls.

“It’s a nice link up with nursing,” said Michael afterwards. “Nursing is not just a science, there’s art in it as well. And the same with photography - there's science alongside the art.

‘’This is something that I also learned when I was doing Interpretive Phenomenological research back home: It is that a picture could resound meaningful messages that is hard to explain. Often, we have plethora of experiences in line with our work and some of those experiences needed not to be explained but to be felt.’’

‘’This Photography session is a good avenue wherein we could enhance our ways of translating interactions to a deeper and meaningful level. Isn’t it amazing that we are all complete strangers coming from a different background and perspective, but we are unified with art? It only goes to show the power of photography and how it becomes a unifying force that could bridge the gap, and breaks the barriers of culture, language, and ethnicity.’’

Workshop leader Mike Newman agreed and was highly impressed by the results.
“I wanted you to meet people you might not normally meet,” he said to the nurses afterwards. "But also, for them to meet people they would not normally meet and chat to – you!”
There will be more photography workshops this autumn and photographs taken will be displayed in an exhibition. The workshops are part of our I Packed This Myself project - breaking down barriers and increasing  understanding of the vital role played by people born overseas in the Cornish economy – and in particular in the health service.

Monday 1 August 2022

Stithians soldier remembered in church


It was very good to call in at Stithians Church today and see a board we created eight years ago now - in 2016 when we were working on remembering World War One locally. Rhiannon Stevenson helped research the background of Joseph Martyn, buried in the graveyard, who died of wounds in Nottingham after being wounded on the Western Front.

So many years afterwards - where has the time gone?! - it's good to see the board we worked on, with Rhiannon's help, on display in the church.

Friday 4 March 2022

Cardboard cutout suitcases in Helston

 A gallery of cardboard cut-out suitcases created by children at Parc Eglos Primary School in Helston, who attended our assemblies and workshops in January. They thought hard about the things that they would take with them, if they had to go on a long journey.


Monday 28 February 2022

Music of migration

A very good Trustees' meeting tonight at the Royal College of Music. This was the first of the college's 'Catalyst' series - 'Fostering Community: Music of Migration and Connection'.

We thought it would be particularly relevant in view of our work in Cornwall on I PACKED THIS MYSELF - encouraging understanding of all the people from overseas who play such a vital role in the local economy.

The concert was led by Michelle Hromin, a Croatian-American clarinettist who played in both Babylon, Our Own by Aleksandra Vrebalov and 2 Suitcases by Mary Kouyoumdjian.

Wednesday 9 February 2022

Lecture at Truro College on long journeys and new horizons


Great to be at Truro College today (9 February 2022) to talk to students about migration and all the surrounding issues. A run through all our work over the past 15 years.... and our project I PACKED THIS MYSELF.

Anew voice joined us at very short notice - Hillary Tan, originally from Kuala Lumpur, who came to study at University in Falmouth four years ago when she was 20.
She has indeed made a long journey to change her life and pursue a dream. She studied Business and Digital Marketing - and dance. Her long-term aim is to set up her own dance school in Cornwall.

Hillary decided to come to the UK as both her parents had studied here. She had heard that Falmouth was a particularly creative university: she is also keen to develop her dance certification - and this originated in the UK so it made sense to study here.

She answered questions this afternoon about a whole range of things. 

What she found difficult in Cornwall? The weather!
To what she missed? Malaysian food.  She found English cooking quite limited and didn't know how to cook at the start.  "My mum wanted me to study. She said she would do the cooking so I had time."

What was hard? Leaving her family.

"In Asian cultures we're really close. I grew up with being cared by my grandparents. Not seing them for a long time is hard.  But at least I can see them online."

Hillary said she had not experienced any racism, even though she found that there were not many Asian students in Falmouth.

The best thing about Cornwall? Picking up sea glass at the beach and the scenery.

The worst thing? The lack of variety in food.

Hillary kindly offered to give advice to any students thinking of studying abroad - or even in Falmouth!

Very many thanks to Euan Beattie for inviting us.

Thursday 3 February 2022

Filming at Parc Eglos School in Helston

  An exciting day for us today at Parc Eglos Primary School in Helston, Cornwall   as we shot a short film with Penzance-based photographer Mike Newman about our work on migration and all the issues around it. We ran assemblies and workshops at the school last month and even taught a little Romanian with the help of Mirabela Robatzchi (Mirabela, originally from Bucharest, is now living in Helston with her family.)  We left behind cut-out cardboard suitcases for children to create and imagine what they would take with them if they had to leave home to make a long journey.

The results are stunning, as we saw today when we returned to see what the children had created. Dance teacher Jo Simms worked with the children to stage an amazing modern dance reflecting the emotions, hopes and fears of people who make long journeys to change their lives.

Watch this space for more about the film.

Friday 14 January 2022

A Factory Suitcase


Very good to see 'A Factory Suitcase' by the artist Ross Tibbles once more on display. It's now at Parc Eglos School in Helston, Cornwall (left). Ross created this suitcase more than ten years ago when he was a 3D design student at University College, Falmouth.  It's been on display several times over the years as we've continued work on migration and related issues.

It has an intriguing message.  Ross was inspired to create it after he worked in a cheesecake factory in Devon one summer. Most of his fellow workers spoke little English and he suddenly realised how it felt not to be able to communicate through language.  He felt extremely isolated. The suitcase on display at Penair School, Truro

“Workers from overseas often find themselves all alone, far away from family and friends whom they have left behind to try and earn more money than they could do at home," he said at the time. “Often, they speak little English and cannot understand what is being said to them - or make themselves understood."

Ross is now a self-employed graphic designer working across a mix of media and specialising in marketing, advertising, stationery and websites. He also does publication design and helped to start up The Moorlander, a newspaper reporting on Dartmoor and surrounding areas.  His portfolio site is

Our work on migration is aimed at breaking down prejudice and increasing understanding of the role played by workers from overseas in the Cornish economy. It's called I PACKED THIS MYSELF and is funded by Cornwall Council via Inclusion Cornwall.

Thursday 13 January 2022

A pop up exhibition in Helston

 At Parc Eglos Primary School, Helston, for the fourth day running this week - only in the afternoon this time, to set up a pop-up exhibition in the school hall. It's amazing what you can do using old cardboard suitcases as plinths, easels as signs for signage and brightly coloured fabric to draw the whole display together.

This display will be at the school for the next few weeks. On Friday 4 February there'll be an Open Day for parents. 

And on Thursday 27 January, well before that, we'll be there to film a dance created by students about the experience of migration - in particular leaving home and loved ones behind. They were rehearsing today as we set up and even at this early stage I had to wipe a tear from my eye!

This is part of our project I PACKED THIS MYSELF, drawing attention to the vital role played by workers from overseas in the local economy and attempting to break down prejudice against them.

This work is funded by Cornwall Council via Inclusion Cornwall. We've been delighted to work at Parc Eglos this week - Mirabela Robatzchi has brilliantly helped to deliver language workshops and assemblies.

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Three days at Parc Eglos and making progress in Romanian

 At Parc Eglos Primary School, Helston, Cornwall, again today (12/1/22) for the third day running to talk to students about migration and teach a few phrases of Romanian. The idea? So that they could welcome any new students without English to their school. It might have seemed a bit ambitious to teach Romanian in 20 minutes but it worked!
Particularly today with the older children in Years 5 and 6.

Not only did we manage to master simple phrases like 'Hello', Goodbye' and 'How are you?'. We moved on to 'Thank you' (a long word in Romanian), 'Please' and - very impressively - 'How are you feeling?' 

The boy in Year 6 who suggested this really put himself in the shoes of a newcomer to the school without any English. Very impressive.

We had some good feedback, too,  from the lovely dance teacher who visits the school every week. She also - independently - runs ballet classes in Helston and on Monday evening (after our first visit to the school) some of her young students greeted her with a little bit of Romanian - 'Hello!' 

What a good start.

Tuesday 11 January 2022

More conversation in Romanian and thoughts about packing


A second day of workshops at Parc Eglos Primary School in Helston, west Cornwall. Yesterday we worked with the early years.

This morning (11 January 2022) we worked with Year 4 students, first an assembly with the full cohort of 120 then two separate classrooms where we learned a bit of Romanian with the help of Mirabela Robatzchi from Bucharest. Mirabela and her family are now making a life for themselves in Helston but when they arrived their young son only spoke two words of English ('red' and 'cat').

Before we practised conversations in Romanian - a few simple phrases to break the ice - students asked lots of questions. How was it for Mirabela's son, aged only seven when he arrived?  Was he sad to leave Romania? Did he make friends quickly?  

Mirabela said the teachers at his school drew pictures to help him communicate - if he had a headache - or felt ill.  He did feel scared - and isolated. Language helps such a lot. 

Students also wondered what Mirabela's son might have brought with him to remind him of home. Several answers: his favourite toys. A collection of stones (a bit heavy, but precious to him!).  

They thought about what they might take with them if they had to make a long journey to build a new life - and what they might have to leave behind. Difficult choices involved, of course, particularly if pets were involved...

Tomorrow: Years 5 and 6.

This is all part of work to increase understanding and to break down prejudice against the thousands of workers from overseas who play such a vital role in the local economy. It's funded by Cornwall Council via Inclusion Cornwall and is called I PACKED THIS MYSELF.


Monday 10 January 2022

On The Move - migration assembly and workshops in Helston

Mirabela in the classroom
Mirabela in the classroom
It was great to be at Parc Eglos School in Helston today for workshops with Years 2 and 3. We ran an assembly about migration and journeys - Mirabela Robatzchi, originally from Romania, helped me brilliantly as ever. We then went into classrooms to do the apparently impossible i.e. teach a few phrases of Romanian in 20 minutes.
Could it be done? Yes, it could!

Mirabela's son had started school in Cornwall at the age of 7 without any English. The only two words he knew were 'red' and 'cat'. How it would have helped if his new schoolfriends knew just a word or two of Romanian, Mirabela said.

So we started with a few simple words: Hello, how are you? Ok! Yes. No. Thank you. Goodbye....

And it worked! We were so impressed by the students, their questions and interest - and, most importantly, the way they understood how important it was to try and communicate. 

This was part of our work to break down prejudice against people from overseas who play such a vital role in the local economy. It's funded by Cornwall Council via Inclusion Cornwall.


Setting up in the school hall beforehand

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