Romola Garai visits Bishop Luffa School

IRC Healing Classrooms 1 MediumActor, director and International Rescue Committee ambassador Romola Garai has said it’s ‘more important than ever’ to make refugees feel welcome after a visit to Bishop Luffa School.

The star of BBC drama Vigil and upcoming film One Life, recently surprised students who have been supported by the IRC’s Healing Classrooms programme.

During the visit, Romola - whose grandfather was a refugee from Hungary - learned how the programme's training and resources have helped the teachers to create a nurturing environment where refugee and asylum-seeking pupils can thrive.

As well as taking a tour of the classrooms, Romola also spoke to Head Teacher Austen Hindman and EAL (English as an Additional Language) Coordinator Susie Cooke about some initiatives at the school.

These include an international club where different cultures are celebrated, as well as a buddy system for refugee children and a cooking club.

IRC Healing Classrooms 4 Medium“The visit shone a light on the profound impact that trauma-informed training and inclusivity initiatives can have,” Romola said, adding: “It highlighted that when given the right support, refugee students are able to truly enrich the wider school community.”

Staff from the comprehensive school initially signed up to take part in the Healing Classrooms programme after 21 children from Ukraine joined when war broke out in their home country last year. The school wanted to ensure staff were able to support the newly arrived children and their families as they integrated into life in the UK.

Since then, 28 more students who are refugees have been enrolled at the school, some of whom Romola was able to speak with. Romola said: “I met some fantastic students who have come from Ukraine and were able to tell me incredible moving experiences,” she said.

“All the young people I spoke to shared the effect of being with staff members who were able to listen to them, take time with them and understand how difficult it has been for them to integrate into a completely different school system in a different language.

“I think they feel very passionately at the support they have had from teachers in the school and it was a really incredible privilege for me to see that.”

Speaking of Healing Classrooms, Head Teacher Austen said his staff initially had ‘no idea’ how to support the students who had moved to the UK. Austen added: “I have no idea what I would do if I had to leave my home today, travel hundreds of miles and then start a new life in a country where I don’t speak the language.

“That has happened to the 38 children who currently attend our school. We had no idea how to support them, but fortunately we were put in touch with the IRC and were able to take part in training as part of the Healing Classrooms project.

IRC Healing Classrooms 5 Medium“I would urge anyone who is working with children who have entered the country as refugees to join the project, as it will enable you to move beyond good intentions and begin to make a difference.”

Romola is also starring in upcoming film One Life which tells the story of Nicholas Winton who rescued 669 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia at the brink of World War II, in cinemas across the UK this January.

“I am constantly inspired by the resilience of young refugees,” Romola said.

“One Life tells the story of children brought to safety in the UK, having been rescued from the imminent Nazi invasion of Prague prior to the Second World War.

“In today’s context, the theme of the film and making refugees feel welcome in the UK is more important than ever, and the IRC’s Healing Classrooms programme aims to do just that.”

What is the International Rescue Committee?
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world's worst humanitarian crises, including the conflict in Ukraine and the crisis in Afghanistan. We help to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. And we are proud to fight for a world where women and girls have an equal chance to succeed.

Read more about the International Rescue Committee in the UK

Photo credit: Scott Ramsey for the International Rescue Committee

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