Thousands turn out to welcome Little Amal to Oxford

This afternoon Oxford city welcomed Amal, a young refugee girl in giant puppet form. Representing all displaced children, many separated from their families, Amal is travelling over 8,000km across Europe from the Syria Turkey border to Manchester and has been welcomed in Oxford by local community groups in an outdoor event called Amal Meets Alice, written by Syrian author Nadine Kaadan.

The Story Museum is the lead partner in Oxford for Amal’s epic journey, entitled The Walk, This international festival of art and hope in support of refugees has been created by Good Chance, in collaboration with the world-famous Handspring Puppet Company, with Artistic Direction from Amir Nizar Zuabi.

As part of the work around Amal’s visit, The Story Museum has partnered with Asylum Welcome to create a professional development programme for local adults with refugee and/or asylum seeker lived-experience. Called ‘Beyond Amal’, the programme offers training in oral storytelling, developing communication skills, confidence, resilience and other transferable workplace skills. Project participants will put their training into practice by helping to deliver learning sessions to school groups at The Story Museum and in the community.

Jan Dogar-Hurd, Education Adviser and ‘Beyond Amal’ Coordinator for Asylum Welcome says, “The ‘Beyond Amal’ Project embodies the central mission of Asylum Welcome which is to support, enable and empower the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants in Oxfordshire.

Recent educational research conducted by Asylum Welcome reported that refugees and asylum seekers stated their ‘first priority was safety and their second was education.’ Amal’s visit to Oxford has inspired  ‘Beyond Amal,’ an education initiative which will not only develop valuable skills for the participants but will help to facilitate a sense of connection and the confidence to make a meaningful contribution to our diverse community. “

Isy Mead, Head of Learning at The Story Museum says, “It has been so special to work with a dedicated group of people, all with highly developed skills in a range of contexts, to explore the ancient and transformative traditions of oral storytelling and creative story making. We are looking forward to establishing this programme as a regular yearly opportunity to further the Museum’s mission to enrich all lives with stories.”

Councillor Shaista Aziz, Oxford City Council Cabinet Member for Inclusive Communities said:

“Today’s event is a wonderful way to show us that all refugees are people with their own story, memories and heritage. Refugees and migrants are welcome in Oxford, and the City Council is delighted to be helping to fund today’s event and calls on residents to join with groups like Asylum Welcome and Refugee Resource working alongside the City Council. We want to support people’s full participation in our community, cultural and economic life and remember the importance of compassion, kindness, courage and our shared connections as human beings.”