‘It takes a village to raise a child'

29th March 2019

“At All Saints, we are immensely proud of the link we share with the community of Soma in The Gambia, West Africa – best known as our ‘Learning through Friendship’ project.  Each February half term, we lead a staff trip to The Gambia and, during our week, we engage in joint curriculum projects with the staff and children at Soma School – engaging with and addressing global issues together.  Our most recent projects and work exchanges have been themed around peace, friendship, sustainable gardening and renewable energy.

It was a real joy to share in our prayer space practice with the staff and Peace Club children at Soma School in The Gambia as part of our ‘Let Your Light Shine’ project, themed around Goal 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals ‘Clean, Affordable Energy for All’.  While the reflective tasks were prepared in England, we bought the handmade baskets and material in The Gambia – with the perfectly fitting sunshine material picked out by our link teacher Mr Baldeh during a visit to the local market in Soma.  In advance of our trip, the Soma School Peace Club children had been thinking about and discussing the notion of ‘Let Your Light Shine’, creating their own drama about the importance of girl’s education, which they also shared with a local, rural village school.  Building on from their thought provoking drama, the Peace Club children enjoyed the opportunity to further extend their thinking through another creative approach to reflection.  Together, through a range of reflective tasks, we all considered how we might be a light to others and how we might shine brightly – both individually and collectively. 

Our first ever trial of a prayer space with our friends in The Gambia featured six reflective stations.

Inspired by the quote ‘throw kindness around like confetti’, we each made a kindness pledge, written onto a coloured slip of paper, folded and added to a glass jar.  One of the pledges written by a member of the Peace Club included “if I see something happening to that person, I will be happy to that person”.

Another activity featured yellow light-bulb templates and an accompanying task encouraging us all to consider how we might be a light to others.  In advance of our trip to The Gambia, the children at All Saints also completed the same reflective task through class worship.  The Peace Club children’s responses included: “be a person who will always be happy with people”, “smile” and “ be kind and friendly to everyone, sharing ideas, treating everyone equally – poor or rich”.  It was lovely to see share in their positive outlooks.

Inspired by our joint story ‘The Sunflower Seeds of Peace’, another of our activities featured sunflower templates.  Asked to consider how we might brighten someone else’s day, the children wrote thoughtful messages at the centre of their sunflowers.  Some of their sunflower messages included: “I will find a special time to chat with my family and play with my sisters and brothers”, “I will tell you something that is good” and “I will make you happy every time and advise you every time”. Some of the children also reflected on the contributions they hope to make to their families; “I will be kind to the family and provide all their necessary needs like food and refreshment”.

Another table was also decorated in the vibrant sunshine material brought from Soma market and featured sunshine templates.  At this activity, the children added key values to each ray of their sunshine template – whilst also considering how they might let your soul shine.  The Peace Club children added the following values to their sunshine rays: joy, home, friends, education, love, kindness, unity, generosity, hospitality, respect, dignity, peace and prosperity.

In the centre of the room, we laid out a mat and coloured strips of card for the children to weave together whilst thinking about their hopes and dreams in life.  Our final station involved decorating a heart or a star whilst offering a silent prayer for a person in need.

At the heart of our reflection space, bringing all the activities together, was the following: “Ask yourself each day what you can do to let your light shine more brightly. Be a light sender