On Wednesday 20 June 2018 students from 16-18 English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses at Hammersmith & Fulham College presented heartfelt and compelling performances at The Heartstone Odyssey Project event as part of West London College’s Refugee Week Celebrations.
The event aimed to address racism, intolerance and prejudice issues by sending a strong message of social inclusion, tolerance and respect regardless of background. Organised by learners and teachers from ESOL Level 1 class, the event was led by the student Emran Kazem. It included performances, videos and poems produced by learners who used their creativity to develop responses about the themes of the book ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’. Students from Pre-Entry and Entry 2 Levels contributed to the event with posters and spoke about their journeys from Syria and Afghanistan to the UK.
Maria Edrovska, Head of Skills Pathway said: “The ESOL Heartstone Odyssey project, which was part of our Refugee Week celebration in the ESOL department in Hammersmith, was impressively well organised and led by learners through a variety of presentations, videos and poems around the themes of prejudice, racism, inequality and diversity. It finished with the powerful message ‘We are all one human race’. It was a proud moment for myself, and lecturers Melanie Clyne, Marco Tesei and Jolanta Wasilewska, whose learners exceeded themselves and made an impression on all the visitors present”.
Amongst the attendees were ESOL students, staff and representatives of the local council. Kalbe Awess from the Community Safety Department at Hammersmith & Fulham Council was impressed by the students’ performances, who then invited the learners to present their work to the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan this October.
Kalbe said: “Today’s event was excellent, this is an innovative, creative and engaging initiative which addresses difficult themes; providing an effective mechanism to reaching communities and raising awareness of hate crime issues and promoting empathy to reduce isolation”.
The event came to a close with a spoken word piece from students Helena Guadalupe and Joshua Olumodi.
Helena Guadalupe presented her reflections at the beginning on the themes in the book: “The man actually couldn’t do much… And you… my… “Friend”? What do you do in these kinds of situations, do you act as you preach or do you preach empty words? These kinds of things make us sadly remember that humans are more attached to the superficial than to what really matters. Cliche, I know, but even though it is a cliche, we still don’t get it.”
Joshua said: “Let’s stop the hate and love other people embracing their diversity and work together in perfect unity. Let’s move forward put a smile on people’s faces, no matter their race and it will make the world a better place”.
Heartstone is a UK-based non-profit organisation which aims to address the issue of hate crime, build integration and cohesion and promote understanding of the common human experience, identity and tolerance. The project follows ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’, a storybook which uses storytelling to teach tolerance and mutual respect. Centred on a female heroine Chandra and her quest to overcome racism, intolerance and prejudice it focuses on changing perceptions, recognising similarities instead of differences and seeing people instead of prejudices. Heartstone has expanded to document real-life stories across the globe using photojournalism to cross age, language and cultural barriers.