A Long Way from Home:
Winners announced of Jersey schools writing competition judged by Sir Trevor McDonald.
JERSEY law firm Benest Corbett Renouf are delighted to announce the winners of the schools’ writing competition which they have sponsored as part of a donation in support of the Jersey Cares; Refugee Aid Group (JCRAG).

The winners are:
Year 4 : Joe Baldwin, (St Michael’s School)
Years 5 & 6: Faye Peters (Trinity)
Years 7 & 8 : Edith Brown (Le Rocquier)
Years 9 & 10 : Hannah Owens (Jersey College for Girls).

The competition was launched by the Jersey Cares; Refugee Aid Group (JCRAG) in late 2016. The charity invited students of all ages to write a short story or poem entitled ‘A Long Way from Home’ to raise awareness of child refugees in Calais. The winning entries are displayed at The Jersey Arts Centre, to coincide with the theatre production ‘Home’ at the Arts Centre, based on refugee stories.
The shortlist was drawn up by Jennifer Bridge, Chair of the Jersey Festival of Words and Sir Trevor McDonald, who himself arrived in the UK as an immigrant from Trinidad. Sir Trevor has become one of the most successful and admired broadcasters and personalities on television.
‘I greatly admired what I heard of your work in Calais. I never thought I would see such utterly disgraceful scenes in my lifetime. We seem as a civilisation to have learnt nothing from the past. Even the little I saw on TV I found impossible to stomach”, wrote Sir Trevor in a note to JCRAG.

Kat Tiefenthal of JCRAG said: “Refugees are people like us who happen to live in a country torn apart by war or oppression where normal life becomes impossible. The refugee crisis is a global issue which is not going away, so it’s important for Island students to engage, especially in this current political climate. We wanted people to think about what it must be like to leave your home and start a new life in a far-away land. What would you feel like if this happened to you? Many of the stories and poems show remarkable knowledge of the refugee crisis, thanks in part to some great teachers out there using our competition as a focus for dedicated assemblies and classes.”
David Benest, Managing Partner of Benest Corbett Renouf, added: “We feel privileged to support the essential work of JCRAG via our donation and by extension, the writing competition. A significant part of our practice concerns family law and helping families through difficult times. We hope that the competition highlights the vital, continuing role played by JCRAG in helping families and children to re-build their lives in a safer environment than those they have fled from.”

Go along to the Arts Centre to see a display of the stories, poems and some photographs of the temporary homes (some painted and some with gardens), which refugees created in the Calais camp just before it was demolished. Although many of the refugees were accommodated into the French asylum process, many continue to sleep out in the cold – including families and unaccompanied minors. JCRAG continues to support these people.

JCRAG is proud so many young people have responded and contributed. And in combination with the overwhelming success of our theatre production HOME, we have once again been overwhelmed by the generosity and warmth of Jersey’s community.

Background

JCRAG, entirely run by volunteers, relies on support from local people, schools and businesses to continue to raise awareness and provide aid to refugees most in need in Calais. JCRAG will be collecting donations on 4th February at the Bridge for a van delivery to refugees on Feb 10th. If you would like to help or donate, please get in touch: helpjcrag@gmail.com or visit https://jcrag.org.je or the Facebook page.
Benest Corbett Renouf was founded on 1st Jan 2016 and comprises of 7 partners. With 30 staff in total, it specialises in litigation, family law, trusts law, employment law and corporate and commercial work.
Winning entries:
Year 4 :
1st Joe Baldwin, (St Michael’s School)
Years 5 & 6:
1st Faye Peters (Trinity)
Years 7 & 8 :
1st Edith Brown (Le Rocquier)
Years 9 & 10 :
1st Hannah Owens (Jersey College for Girls)

THE WINNING ENTRIES

A long way from home. By Joe Baldwin (Year 4, age 9) St Michael’s School

I am a long way from home… whatever home means now. My home is gone. It’s wrecked. It looks like a hurricane came through. But instead, it has just been destroyed by bombs.
I have been attacked by the people who are supposed to protect us. And I have walked, and walked and walked. My shoes are all torn apart… maybe it’s a symbol of what has happened to my home! My shoes are torn apart, just like my home is torn apart.
I’m so thirsty all the time. There is no water, there is no food. I am never alone, but I am always lonely. They call where we live “The Jungle” and it is. There are a lot of people who are trying to help, but no one who can really give us what we need. No one knows where my parents are. We were together, but in the middle of the night, we had to run away from snipers. In the confusion, we were separated… that was 4 months ago, and I don’t know where they are.
The people from the charities keep telling me not to give up hope. That they will help me find my family. That we will all be placed somewhere better, where we can start our lives again. But 4 months is a long time, and I miss my mum.
No one in the camp has much money… and when people are poor and desperate, they will do the most horrible things, just to survive. Some of these things I will never forget …
Sometimes I am frightened. I want to be somewhere safe with my family, but I lie awake listening to people fight, and while we are not in Aleppo anymore, there is a different kind of war in the jungle. I want to be safe. To go to school again, and to be with my family. I want peace.
It’s getting cold now … it’s nearly Christmas time. My clothes are not warm enough to keep me warm through the winter. One of the ladies at the charity tent gave me a blanket, but some of the big boys stole it and told me they’d kill me if I told anyone. So I’m back to shivering through the nights! I remember writing long lists of toys for Christmas. That seems like such a long time ago … a long time ago, and a long way from home.

A Long Way From Home By Faye Peters (year 6, age 10, Trinity School)

Splish! Splosh!
My fire is demolished,
My spirit extinguished,
As we’re in the boat,
We are afloat,
But my soul has sunk,
To the bottom, crunk!

Someone pulled the plug on my joy,
I am just a skin,
No light within,
My heart it cracked,
My happiness lacked,
I was not truly alive,
Just there.

A Long Way from Home Edith Brown (year 8, aged 12, Le Rocquier )

I’ve been a long way from home for quite a while now, running my own bakery but I still miss
it: the smell of my mother making rosewater and pistachio cakes, the sight of our crops
slowly ripening and the joy of playing in the fallow fields. I had heard all about war from my
friends and family but thought that I would never experience it. How wrong was I?
The first bombs came in the night shattering the peaceful tranquility normally found in small
country villages like Amuda. They saw the buildings and thought we were one of the big
cities and without a second thought dropped the bombs that killed so many; my teacher, the
baker and the man who made sweets for the children, all gone in one fell swoop. The
screaming was terrible but the worst part was when the screaming stopped. That was when
we decided to run. After gathering up our belongings and money and grabbing some food
we loaded up our donkeys and left. Me, mum, my little sisters Nour and Azil and my friends
Hala and Ameera whose parents had been killed in the attack. We slept during the day and
traveled during the night but no matter how far we got out of Amuda I couldn’t stop think
about the dead and the people left behind. How would they function with most of the
villagers dead or fleeing?
My guilt only worsened when we passed villages which had been subject to the same
treatment; we did all we could to help but it still felt like we were useless. I hate the thought
of Nour and Azil growing up in a world where this is commonplace. The state the world is in
frightens me.
It took us about 40 days to reach the border with Turkey and when we finally got there we
were told we needed passports but we did not have them. What use were they when we
never left Syria? So we decided to try and find a weak point in the border. After about 3 days
of walking we found our spot – no guards. Once on the other side we reached a town. It was
so similar to the Syria I knew; I felt at home. And so we trekked through Turkey and were
offered a boat to Greece. The boat was the size of a big cupboard yet they expected us to fit
on with another family and we took the leap of faith. But as we settled into the bottom of the
boat I started having doubts. What if we never got off again?
When we landed it was like reaching paradise. From Greece we were shipped to Glasgow
which reassured us because it is a bustling city and we could surely make a name for
ourselves there. Within the month we had set up our bakery doing Syrian cuisine.
Fortunately this is one of the refugee tales with a happy ending. The war in Syria may still be
going on but we have weathered this storm as a family. More refugees have now come to
Glasgow and we have 2 more children who have joined our family because they have
nowhere else to go.
What we have taken from our experience as refugees from Syria is that we have to be kind
to each other. And we can think about how other people are feeling. And we can make every
moment of our lives count for something.

A Long Way From Home by Hannah L. Owens. (year 10, age 15, Jersey College for Girls)

An incessant stream of chatter pours through the dark wall of thoughts that surrounds. Beside me his juvenile skip scatters the rough stones, each one momentarily escaping the heavy forces of gravity. A second of freedom one could only glimpse if time was slowed to capture each moment of escape and relief. His tone is light and without care; unperturbed by my lack of response and happy to chatter in a voice not yet heard by eight years.
The language is loose; usually I would hasten to correct the struck notes that slide upon his tongue and slip into unusual mannerisms. “I’ll be an astronaut and I’ll fly rockets. you could visit me on the moon and- and we’ll have a space picnic. I’ll have to rescue you from the space monster, of course and then we could go to that red planet- wait, I know this- mars. that’s it. will you visit me? every day?” My memories and identities have grown jaded and cynical. A child forced to grow up within weeks by circumstance, purely out of chaotic choice. A child who lost her laugh and turned to the matters of surviving, rather than living. I became a child I would never have dreamed of, all these miles from something I used to call home. “we could build a home there and then I’d have a cat except it would fly ‘cause I gave it a jetpack. except for the food. that’s okay, we could grow space cucumbers and feed them to the cat.”
Twitching slightly, my smile briefly dances across my stiff cheeks. Space cucumbers. In the mind of a child, anything can be solved with a tiny drop of imagination. They can fight space monsters and visiting Mars is an easy conclusion. In there, space cats aren’t too far a stray from normality. I remember those worlds. Those worlds where I fought away everyone who hurt my mother and caused my father to sob with violent and painful tears. Worlds where I was free- and I could always return home. Somewhere on our long journey, along with hope, those worlds were lost. “I’d go to a space school and I would learn about Jupiter and stars and nubulea- nebela- nebula! I’d make my lunch every day and you would go to your important big school where you’d learn about rockets.”
Surviving is in many ways an easy task. Unconsciously your brain draws each breath in over a swollen tongue and roughly expels it. At a microscopic level each function is performed with perfection. Only on wider examination does one realise the ugly, cruel horrors that scatter the surface of the world. I once sought an education and a career as a politician. Maybe once I could have done something for the world. Yet I can now only star in a child’s dream. Maybe I am nothing. “we’d be really happy. and we’d never need to go back to earth, except for a holiday of course. then we could visit and collect some air- you said we can’t breathe in space so we’d need air. or you could hold your breath for a really, really, really long time. I can hold my breath for ages! look, no, you have to look at me. look!” I look at him, a child who believes that holding your breath could solve all the problems of the world. His face is radiant with innocence and I am saddened to confront the reality that one day all this will end.
Smiling will be replaced by suffering, the despair that we are so truly alone in a universe he once fantasied about. “and then we will be tired, and I’ll ask you ‘can we go home now?’” I can’t respond and my throat constricts with conflicting emotions.
How am I to explain that we have no home, to a child? As if he hadn’t suffered enough loss, I now must carefully weave the truth; in our own country we are rejected and threatened, where we seek refuge they do not wish to extend their welcome. Instead I smile and gently take his hand. Perhaps the harsher reality can wait another couple of light years ahead of us. His face expectantly peers up and crinkles as the sunlight falls upon it. I ruffle his dark curls and confide to him my greatest wish to his question. “And maybe, I’ll tell you one day, that we’re going home.’

All short-listed entries:
Year 4 :
1st Joe Baldwin, (St Michael’s School)
2nd Molly Green Davies (La Moye)
3rd Ella Bear (La Moye)

Years 5 & 6
1st Faye Peters (Trinity)
2nd Charlie Crocker (Trinity)
3rd William Ruff (St Georges)

Years 7 & 8
1st Edith Brown (Le Rocquier)
2nd Mateo Mullins (De La Salle)
3rd Oliver Young (De La Salle)

Years 9 & 10
1st Hannah Owens (Jersey College for Girls)
2nd Carys Unwin (Jersey College for Girls)
3rd Oliver Fairhead (De La Salle)