School students from across York, inspired by Nobel Peace laureates, are sending hundreds of relief supplies they have collected to help refugee children in Greece.
Almost 400 ‘Lifebags’ have been collected by children from The Mount, Fulford, Millthorpe, Bootham and St Paul’s Primary schools. Each Lifebag contains food, clothing, basic medical supplies (such as hand santiser), a whistle and also provides writing materials and some form of entertainment, such as a small toy.
The city-wide effort began in the summer term when Annabelle Hill and her classmates met students from Greece at an international PeaceJam Student Leadership Conference in Monaco where they had listened to Nobel Peace Laureates HH the Dalai Lama and Jody Williams. The PeaceJam Foundation works with Nobel Peace Laureates to inspire young people to take actions for peace in their communities.
The pupils from PeaceJam Greece told the Mount girls about lone child refugees and the desperate need to give help to these children who are at a high risk of child trafficking; a Lifebag is vital in their first few days after arrival.
Annabelle and her friends decided to help. They persuaded students and staff at The Mount to adopt Lifebag as one of the School’s annual charities. They also contacted other schools in the York Independent State School Partnership (ISSP) and the local area to ask them for help. Fulford School donated 178 bags and students from Millthorpe, Bootham and St Paul’s schools also collected over 200 bags. Valerie McNulty, Modern Languages teacher at Millthorpe School said the Lifebag project has inspired everyone as it was a way to make a difference for child refugees. Mr Paul Walker, Assistant Head at Fulford School, said that Annabelle was so persuasive their school has also adopted Lifebag as its Christmas Charity Appeal.
Annabelle had also addressed community groups such as Rotary York and Quakers in Yorkshire, whose Ilkley Meeting House kindly visited The Mount to contribute additional bags.
Annabelle said, “It was evident that the refugee crisis needed someone to do something. Then I realised I was someone and I could do something. It took a lot of time and effort to set up Lifebag. I expected to compile fifty Lifebags and we currently have over 300. It exceeded all my expectations and I really appreciate all the support Lifebag has received from across York.”
Students at the American Farm School in Greece are on stand-by ready to receive all the Lifebags and deliver them by hand to refugee children. Celia Edwards at The Mount has been working to contact companies to arrange the transport. Bowker Group has kindly donated palettes and transported the first shipment of the Lifebags safely to Greece. Other local logistics companies have also offered to assist with transporting the bags to PeaceJam Greece in Thessaloniki.
Ellen Froustis of PeaceJam Greece said, “Congratulations to you and your schools! Youth are living in 5* C weather in cold and flooded camps in Northern Greece. These bags are arriving at a much needed time. Thank you so much for your support!!”
As most school students turn their minds towards the Christmas break, these York pupils are happy to know their efforts will make a difference to young and vulnerable lives.
Adrienne Richmond, Principal of The Mount, said, “We are very proud of the way Annabelle and her friends have led and organised this project. The Mount has been recognised this year as a PeaceJam School of Excellence. PeaceJam Nobel Peace Prize Laureates have inspired our students to make connections across York and Europe to make a difference to children who really need our help.”
Below: Coverage on BBC Look North