School pupils in Portsmouth are supporting refugees by welcoming a handmade cross made from the driftwood of refugee boats.
Handmade crosses carved by an Italian carpenter from the wood of capsized boats are being shared with Catholic communities throughout the city by charity Cafod.
Youngsters at St Paul’s Catholic Primary School in Paulsgrove focused on the plight of refugees by taking part in a ‘pilgrimage’ around the school grounds. Their journey aimed to be an act of solidarity with those forced to leave their homes and ended with the children writing messages of hope which the aid agency will share with refugees worldwide.
The pupils looked at a passport and reflected on places where people are attacked for their beliefs or their colour or their nationality.
The children shared their hopes that everyone will live in harmony with each other and prayed that all refugees on long journeys will have a safe passage and a true welcome at the end.
Waterlooville couple Patrick and Isobel Flynn, who have been volunteering for Cafod for the past year, organised a day of activities for the children, raising awareness to why so many people are forced to leave their homes.
Isobel said: ‘It was very thought-provoking seeing the children think so much about others and why they wanted to help and welcome the stranger. We were delighted to offer the cross for the students’ reflection during the day.’
Patrick added: ‘The pilgrimages worked really well and we were very impressed at the level of respect, and empathy that the children had for refugees. This empathy was reflected in some thoughtful messages of hope which were placed in each classroom.’
Cafod representative, Lynda Mussell, said: ‘Many people, including myself, often feel helpless and are desperate to do something. This is a way of sharing our thoughts and acting in solidarity with our global neighbours.
‘The crosses are a symbol of solidarity. Holding the Lampedusa cross and knowing it came from a boat where so many died trying to reach safety is an incredibly moving experience.’
As part of a campaign led by the Catholic charities Cafod, CSAN and the Jesuit Refugee Service, Catholics of all ages in schools, churches and communities in Portsmouth are also sharing messages of welcome, hope and love, which will be shared with refugees in the UK as an act of solidarity and dedicated at a special event to take place in November.