Transition Year students in Ballina’s St Mary’s Secondary School have studied side by side for over three years but only recently heard the harrowing experiences of some of their classmates who came to Ireland as refugees.
What they learned inspired them to create awareness about refugees as their project for the Young Social Innovators (YSI) competition.
Their project is called ‘Try Walking in Their Shoes’ and aims to highlight the positive contribution refugees make.
Group member Sarah Baynes explained: “Two girls in our class who are part of our group are refugees. We had heard mostly only negative things about refugees until they started to tell us their stories and all of the horrible things they have been through.”
The team has, to date, raised over €300 as part of their awareness campaign by staging fundraisers like cake sales, a sweet jar competition and a raffle in their school. The proceeds were used to buy food for orphan refugees.
They have compiled and distributed an information leaflet about refugees and also share information on dedicated ‘Try Walking In Their Shoes’ Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts and on the Blogger platform.
Alva Gallagher, who is also a member of the team, says the refugees’ personal stories are proving to be one of the most effective elements of their campaign to date.
The team is also planning a cultural night in their school to help highlight the culture of students who are refugees and they intend to participate in and document their experiences of the Concern food ration challenge.
Prior to last week’s Covid-19 shutdown, they had planned to present their project at the regional YSI Speak Out in Sligo this week.