Exactly one year ago Isabel and I set off from London to walk to Iona. Though Easter was late, spring was early and the sun was shining on London. The sky was a brilliant blue and there were fresh leaves on the trees, full-blown tulips in the parks and the waft of barbecue smoke along the canals. There was a hush in the city: Palm Sunday crosses were stockpiled on the steps of St Paul’s, the choir was warming up in The Temple and the Inns of Court were thronged with extras shooting a scene for The Crown.
It was the beginning of a glorious and unforgettable spring. Ahead of us lay 600 miles of paths and two months of new horizons. We were engaged to be married and full of hope that the journey we were making would bring us closer to an understanding of our country and its people. We looked forward to making friends and finding out more about the ways in which Britain offers assistance to vulnerable displaced people.
As I write this the skies are leaden and the trees still bare, though Easter has been and gone. I envy the couple setting out with packs on their backs in search of knowledge and connection, and I am grateful that they took that pilgrimage to become the people we are today.
This year our lives are different. We have roots in Sussex with full time employment and a happy home. We are married, and what is more we two are now three. Just two weeks ago our son was born and we have begun a fresh pilgrimage as parents, one that will shape the rest of our lives.
In May this year Christ’s Hospital School will host its first ever Refugee Awareness Week. The knowledge and network we acquired on our walk will now serve to spread understanding and compassion for displaced people among a very special group of 900 boys and girls.
We have scheduled a programme of visitors and talks spread over a week that we hope will inspire members of this community to take action in support of those affected by forced migration. We will welcome representatives from Medical Justice, Room to Heal, Medecins Sans Frontieres, The Red Cross, The Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group, Choose Love and Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, among others.
Two of our events will be open to members of the public, and we hope that you will consider making a trip to West Sussex to attend one or both of these. On Tuesday May 8th Patience Agbabi and David Herd will read from Refugee Tales and speak about the campaign to end indefinite detention. A former refugee and detainee will also be sharing his story on this occasion. On Sunday May 13th ex-detainees and their friends and supporters will go on a communal walk in the environs of Christ’s Hospital, followed by a picnic and spoken word performances at the school. To register for these free events please click on the underlined links.
Our Listening Pilgrimage may have finished, but we continue our journey of listening, learning and sharing stories. Thanks again for reading these reflections and for continuing to engage with this issue in a positive way.
Christy, Isabel and Zebedee.