Craven DEC aims to develop understanding of global issues and to encourage action for a more just society and world. Working in North Yorkshire with teachers, school governors, young people and the wider community, Craven DEC work in partnership with the Centre for Global Education, York, independent global learning providers, the local town, district and county councils, the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust, Skipton Fairtrade Initiative and Skipton Refugee Support Group.
Liz Roodhouse, Coordinator at Craven DEC, talks about their work in the community
I am incredibly fortunate to be living and working in the Craven District of North Yorkshire, which not only encompasses some beautiful areas in the southern Yorkshire Dales National Park but last year, according to the Office for National Statistics’ annual study of the nation’s happiness and well-being, was the area with the highest level of life satisfaction and the lowest level of anxiety among residents. They obviously didn’t ask me when the deadline for a grant application was looming.
Despite large urban populations in the West Yorkshire conurbation – Bradford is just under 20miles away and Leeds 26miles – incredibly some of the primary school children in the northern parts of Craven may have never visited the largest town in Craven, Skipton (population 14,623 2011 Census), let alone Bradford and Leeds, and their peers are almost all white British. There are pockets of deprivation but generally it is an affluent area where the sense of community is strong and the teachers we work with all know each other. Primary schools are small, some with under fifty children; the largest have a one form entry so around 210 children in total. Teachers have to wear many ‘hats’, work incredibly hard and always appreciate the support they get from Craven DEC to widen their pupils’ horizons.
Preparing the young people of Craven, many of whom will go on to become leaders of the future, to be effective global citizens is what motivates us as does the desire to raise awareness of global issues in our community.
The Celebrate Craven project, made possible by a grant from the Big Lottery Celebrate Fund ticked both those boxes. Held over three different venues in central Skipton in July 2017, Craven’s first Human Library event aimed to challenge the most common prejudices in a positive manner through social interaction, and to provide a legacy that would be available for schools. Twenty ‘living books’ were carefully chosen to celebrate the diversity that exists within the Craven District and ranged in age from 33 to 85 years. Some have lived in Craven all their lives, several were born in western and eastern European countries and are relative newcomers, whilst others were born in India and Nigeria. Training was provided beforehand by a professional storyteller. This was invaluable, and not only gave the storytellers a starting point, but also gave them confidence as this was a new experience for almost all of them. On the day each ‘living book’ was given a twenty-five minute time slot. Stories were wide ranging, lasting between 6 to 8 minutes and concentrated on memorable childhood experiences that had shaped the individuals’ lives. School parties and the general public were invited to visit the library and over 400 young people and 70 adults did.
Feedback was extremely positive:
“The children (and the teachers) learnt so much! It has already inspired a couple of them to think outside the box for careers (animators and artists) and helped them realise the world is a tiny bit bigger than Gargrave!” Lorraine Comerford, Gargrave School
“Days like today can be life-changers for some children – meeting such inspirational people, realising what is possible in life and appreciating the diversity in our society.” Head Teacher, Hellifield School
A ‘Faces of Craven’ (12 of the ‘living books’) poster pack has been produced for schools with suggestions of how the posters can be used in the classroom to challenge perceptions and encourage critical thinking. Schools will also be receiving a ‘Welcome to Craven’ poster that celebrates the diversity of Craven’s population and welcomes visitors to the school in a variety of languages. There is to be a legacy exhibition of photographs in February and a book is about to be printed that includes edited scripts and photographs of all the ‘living books’.
“Diversity is the one true thing we all have in common. Celebrate it every day.” Author unknown
Initiatives like this are incredibly valuable in educating our children that life can be very different elsewhere and what they see as ‘usual’ or ‘normal’ in their day-to-day lives isn’t necessarily the case.
Indeed, what is ‘normal’? Even life across the Craven District can vary in its pace and nature depending on whether one lives in a remote hamlet or a more urban community.
Blog by Liz Roodhouse, Coordinator Craven DEC
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