On 25th November 2016, 31 students from 3 schools in London, UK came together at Woodside High School to participate in a Youth Forum on the theme of People Forced to Flee from Conflict and Disaster.
15 students from Woodside High School, who hosted the Forum, stepped up as Forum Organisers, and took on all the logistics of setting up and running their Forum. Three of these students were MC’s for the day and did a brilliant job of keeping everyone to time, introducing the activities and speakers and representing their school!
Kicking off the day were welcome speeches from Gerry Robinson, Co-Head at Woodside High School, and John McLaverty from Oxfam’s Education & Youth Team. This was followed by a short icebreaker activity so all the students could get to know each other as the Forum Organisers had cunningly put them in mixed school groups to encourage participation across schools!
To provide a real insight into the theme of the Forum, Woodside High School were delighted to host Gulwali Passarlay, who fled Afghanistan as a 12 year old child and who shared his personal journey across Asia into Europe. His moving first hand testimony really touched all of the young people (and adults) in the room and provided a catalyst to discuss possible action plans to support those fleeing conflict, later in the day. Gulwali was joined for a Q&A session by Josephine Liebl, Oxfam GB’s Humanitarian Policy Advisor and took relevant, thought provoking and inspiring questions from the audience.
The whole concept for the Forum was for young people to get together to research the issue in more depth, whilst developing their own school action plans which they will then go on to implement when they get back to their schools. Participants of the Forum had access to Oxfam’ Stand as One Photography Exhibition with Virtual Reality (VR) headset. They were also given research packs and access to a number of life preservers which were collected from the beaches of Chios, Greece which had been worn by adults and children desperate to cross the sea and seek sanctuary in Europe.
After lunch, the young people returned to their school groups to work on their action plan, ranking their ideas in a Diamond 9 before using an activity called Bricks and Hammers to help them think of the possible challenges they may face implementing their action, and some possible solutions to overcome them.
The day rounded off with the MC’s asking everyone in the room to share a highlight and something that they will take away from the Forum (apart from their action plans!). There was resounding voice and empathy for hearing from Gulwali’s first hand experiences and a lot of energy to do something to make a tangible difference to the lives of those affected by conflict and disaster.
All the schools are now planning their actions and will be stepping up to take the lead in running these in the New Year! Watch this space for more UK Forums, coming soon in 2017 and 2018.