Congratulations to Michaela Fyson, from Audley branch, for having the vision and determination to bring the plight of refugees right into the centre of Parliament in the hope of encouraging a more understanding and kinder discourse. as she statesin her campaign statement: Kindness is a universal language. Speak it with Refugees.
Michaela had read an anthology of stories from refugees called A Country of Refuge which really touched her and inspired her to consider how useful it would be if we could encourage our MPs to shift their perspective in addressing this issue. She raised the idea at one of our Sunday Pint and Politics events and, thanks to the support and encouragement she received, she ploughed ahead with what seemed a very ambitious project to buy the book for every MP and have them delivered before Christmas.
Michaela gained support from Lord Dubs, who spoke so movingly of his own experiences coming to England on the Kinder Transport, new Batley and Spen MP Tracy Brabin who proudly follows in the footsteps of Jo Cox, and of course Paul Farrelly and his office who helped organise the room and helped to store and distribute the books. She fund-raised in a very short period of time, ordered the books, liaised with authors and editors and organised many book-wrapping sessions. All in a few weeks!
I will leave you with Michaela's own words following the event:
TOGETHER WE DID IT!!
Despite losing our original room and time in the House of Commons to a select committee ( they always have the right to bump - am learning parliamentary rules fast!) we got the books to London thanks to Sarfaz and managed to run the event.
We did lose some writers and MPs with the very late change of time but others came. Lord Dubbs and Tracy Brabin were particularly supportive. They were under huge pressure with the emergency debate on Aleppo and other commitments but still found time to give us warm words of encouragement, pose for photos and twitter fellow mps to get their attention to our event. Lord Dubs went off to "round up a few MPs"
Contributors to the book with Jade, Prossy and Aso - refuge writers from Freedom from Torture's writing group, 'Write to Life' gave readings. The refugee writers were particularly moving, haunted by their harrowing experiences, grateful for the support they have received and, above all, resilient and determined to survive and contribute positively to their country of refuge.
The support of all of you has been fantastic You have given not only money but also time and energy: wrapping books, addressing letters to MPs, sharing ideas, transporting the books to London and designing a poster. I am particularly grateful to those of you who put up with my panics, uncertainties and rants, you were all so patient and supportive.
I do think we have made an impact. All the books and letters that were not presented on the day will be put into MPs 'pigeon holes' - I am sure there is some ancient and dignified parliamentary term, for these - so here's hoping that they are read or at least that the mere act of receiving encourages a more compassionate response. The MPs that came to the event all said that it was worth doing, one in particular said that the book would be invaluable to his researchers.
Two people gave spontaneous support to our efforts. Late on Monday evening as I was trying to find the right platform in London Bridge Station, struggling with bags of letters, a case of respectable clothes and an ungainly tatty cardboard packet the railwayman I approached, Yaya from Gambia, asked me what was in the card. When I told him it was a poster about refugees and explained what we planned next day he asked to see it. He immediately understood what we were trying to do and although he was very cynical about politicians -" they forget where the have come from when they get in power" he was immensely encouraging and said it really mattered" Again in the House of Commons, a security man ( retired policeman of 30 years) who went out of his way to help us, kept saying how wonderful he thought what we were doing was. Let' s hope At least some MPs are similarly moved.
Pauline's poster caused a stir going through security to get into Parliament. They looked at the packet with great suspicion and even when I opened it said they needed to take it away. Luckily after a few minutes they returned it. You will see from the photos how beautiful it is, Lord Dubs was particularly struck with it.
Due to uncertainties of time, last minute chasing of press did not happen. I did do a live interview over my mobile at 7.30 am on Tuesday and another with the Guardian from the House. This went on line yesterday evening with 2 photos - see link below.
I have sent the Sentinel an article today with photos. Could local people send letters please.
Please also do as much social media and other communications as you want both to encourage MPs and to let the world know. There was a lot of twittering, tweeting and facebooking going on in London yesterday.
How, if at all, should we follow this up ? I will try to make sure that I thank the MPs who came though in the chaos, I am not sure we got all the names.
I also think that every MP should have one more email hoping they have read,/will act?? probably after Christmas recess. IDEAS WELCOME on what we should say.
There are still some books available for sale, have some orders and sold some. Also one was taken by a writer to give to Joan Bakewell at a lunch after our event.
I do hope that you all feel it was worth supporting.
With a thousand thanks and warmest wishes,