Interview: Kent Refugee Action Network, by Issy

 

In Canterbury we visited KRAN (Kent Refugee Action Network), a brilliant voluntary organisation working to support young refugee and asylum seekers . Their focus is on integration and direct support in Kent, the county which has seen the greatest numbers of child refugees in recent years.

Christy gave a creative writing workshop to a group of teenagers from countries including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Vietnam, Iraq, Kurdistan and Syria. Christy discussed the importance of using the senses in storytelling, then asked the students to describe a place they knew well.

We heard many descriptions:  a bustling local market in Kabul, filled with the smell of ‘spices & fresh fruit’ and ‘the sounds of people talking’; of the mountainous border of Kurdistani and Iraq, “in the Summer filled with green grass and flowers “.  One spoke of “sleeping on cold, hard concrete” and the overpowering smell of bleach whilst being held in a detention centre; another told us about Chavi Land in the Sulaymaniyah region of Kurdistan, a huge tourist destination, with the biggest ferris wheel in the Middle East”.  A Vietnamese girl chose to describe the delights of an afternoon in Herne Bay, Kent, surrounded by “blue skies and green meadows”, hearing the “sounds of waves” and seeing “lovely bright yellow daffodils and breathing in their smell”.

The teens were very good company, full of energy, laughter and zest. They were intrigued by our pilgrimage to Iona, many were familiar with Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Three boys showed me photos of  Lalish, a beautiful temple set up in a small mountain village in Northern Iraq and the most sacred pilgrimage site for the Yazidis. The rocky island of Iona with its grey-brick monastery struck them as rather austere by comparison!

They asked why we were making this journey and we explained that we wanted to get to know our country better, to walk, to talk and to listen. They liked the idea, some suggesting we take a dog with us and others laughing at our tiny tent.

While at KRAN we spoke to Jessica Maddocks, the Communications and Development Manager and David Wilcock, a Youth Worker and who focuses on Community Engagement. Both were extremely welcoming, and clearly felt proud and energised working with these amazing young men and women.  

Audio link below, hear what Jessica and David had to say about the importance of mentors, friends, and goats…

AUDIO:  Interview with Jessica and David at KRAN

 

Maps, by Christy

 

I am an old fashioned navigator, I like to have a paper map spread on a table when planning a route. I like to unfold it in a forest and check my progress. I like to use a compass or the sun as a guide

Nowadays you can do marvelous things on a phone or computer, zooming in on OS maps, marking a route and downloading it for offline use. The problem with modern technology is that it demands access to a power supply and a reliable bit of kit.

When Issy and I set off from Dover beach we had two devices. These were meant to provide navigation, phone calls, photos videos and sound recordings. I had spare batteries, but my screen was on the blink. Issy’s screen worked but her device was cleverly designed so you can’t switch batteries and the power drained rapidly with all the demands we placed on it.

Turning the air blue as I wrestle with technology

Our friend Will Parsons had kindly sent us a route plan which we could access if our phones worked, but we soon discovered these expensive gadgets were not to be relied on.

We headed straight for the tourist information office, where a map of South East England set us back a fiver. Now we were confident that we wouldn’t get hopelessly lost.

Dover to Southwark, the wiggly way. Maybe 1/10th of the total distance done.

On the second leg of the walk my phone was being fixed, so the whole burden of recording and navigating fell on Issy’s phone. In the evenings I used a tablet to investigate the next day’s route, noting down the directions and names of streets or paths we would take. With these archaic scraps of paper we found our way.

Follow these directions to get from Aylesford to Southwark.

The only time we had to retrace our steps was when what appeared on maps to be a footbridge over the Medway turned out to be an inaccessible gantry in the middle of a wasteland. It was unseasonably hot as we picked our way nervously across the mud, intimidated by the sight of a modern troll’s lair, littered with discarded cider cans and tarpaulins.

We have learned not to rely too heavily on electronic devices. We will set our course North-West and keep on walking.

In the meantime, maps and charts are a fascinating way of seeing the world, as the examples below will testify.

UPDATE:

Thanks to Dave at Splashmaps for these two beauties:  waterproof, breathable, scrunchable, wearable.  Good for large-scale planning and make an attractive table-cloth.

http://www.splash-maps.com

 

And thanks to Will Parsons at The British Pilgrimage Trust for coaching me in the use of OS and Memory-map, and for dragging me into the 21st Century!  See below for a “screen shot”.

Memory-map has several useful functions, like making a pink fish appear at your destination.

Here are some curious maps I’ve spotted recently:

 

Cute map of Dover by prosperdevas.com. Spot the whale and mermaids.

 

The Fish and Chip map of Britain
A fascinating map we found on a pub wall in Kent. Much was destroyed in ‘Bomb Alley’ during the Second World War.
Pilgrimage sites, from The Pilgrims’ Way by John Adair and Peter Cheze-Brown.

 

Writers’ map, copyright Geoff Sawer.

 

Thanks to Billy for supplying a 2004 OS map of Kent and to Will for supplying routes from Dover to Canterbury and guiding us on Day 2.

 

 

Seeds

By Christy

 

On a recent visit to Australia my friends Matt and Ange gave me a dried sunflower head from the previous year’s crop. The golden spiral of seeds is beautifully compact and pregnant with potential.

Each day of our journey we give a seed or two to the special people who offer us shelter or encouragement.  With a bit of luck these humble gifts will grow into giant blooms that resemble the star they worship.

The first seeds were given away on 1st March in Dover. How tall will they be when we reach Iona?

Have we given you a seed? Send us a picture when the flowers grow!

Ah! Sun-flower (William Blake)

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,

Who countest the steps of the Sun:

Seeking after that sweet golden clime

Where the traveller’s journey is done.

 

Where the Youth pined away with desire,

And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow:

Arise from their graves and aspire,

Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.