Nola first visited the refugee camp known as 'the Jungle' in Calais, France in June 2016 after following stories and films from the camp via social media for years. She was visibly moved and concerned by the significant number of children in the camp, most of whom were there without parents or carers, some as young as 8 years old.
Around a similar time, Nola was contacted by Care4Calais, a grass roots NGO founded by a group of UK volunteers that aims to deliver essential aid and support to refugees in Calais. Care4Calais asked Nola to support their ChildrenCare4Calais letter writing campaign as part of her national refugee awareness sessions for schools. Nola was keen to find a way to involve children in letter writing and to extend this further to build meaningful connections between children in the UK and Calais and to other camps globally.
After a long journey home from Calais, she reflected on everything she had heard and seen and felt inspired to set up Hearts and Hopes.
Hearts and Hopes is an intercultural child voice project, connecting school children in England with children seeking refugee around the world.
Children throughout England have the opportunity to learn about the experiences of refugee children through Nola's interactive workshops. They explore; why children are forced to leave their homes, what it's like to journey to a place of safety, the different places they live and how they feel.
After participating in the workshops, children in the UK are then invited to share messages of love, care, peace, hope, solidarity and welcome through words (letters and cards) through art, video messages, shoe boxes filled with educational resources, friendship bracelets and in any other art forms. Through their involvement, children in the UK are also inspired and supported to be part of fund raising initiatives and donation appeals which provide essential items for children living in Calais refugee camp.
Nola returned to spend time with children in the camp in Calais and in September 2016 she extended her reach to Syrian children exiled in Lebanon, in connection with Project Amal Ou Salam and the SOS Children's Village, Lebanon. Here she has spent a number of weeks engaging refugee children in workshops, she has hand delivered children's messages and gifts from the UK and listened to refugee children share their stories, hopes and wishes. Nola has used creative arts to enable refugee children to find ways of expressing their feelings and re-connecting with children back in the UK.
In 2017 Nola and her team have made several visits to a smaller camp, north of Calais. In March, Nola extended the project to reach children on the Jordan side of the Syrian border.
It is hoped that through developing these connections, children, who are our future, feel cared about, listened to and valued. It is hopes that they will be the drivers of more peaceful, welcoming and inclusive communities.
This is an ongoing project. Nola is passionate about extending her reach to many more children nationally and globally.
If you are interested in supporting any aspect of this project or working with Nola on Hearts and Hopes in your school or setting, please get in touch.
Hearts and Hopes is based on the idea that:
Every child has a heart that feels, cares, loves
Every child has hopes and wishes
Every child has the right to have their feelings and hopes heard