The Hands Up Project

By Nick Bilbrough

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Like many people I have been deeply moved by the growing number of children caught up in the refugee crises around the world, and I wanted to do something about it - something where I could provide direct support for the children, and where I could use my particular skills and experience. In my previous role as a trainer of language teachers in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon and Pakistan, I saw at first hand how engaging and meaningful a syllabus based around the sharing and telling of stories could be.

Six months ago I started doing voluntary storytelling sessions through video conferencing tools for a group of children in a refugee camp in Gaza. Since then the project has grown in its scope and I now work with children from various camps in Gaza and other parts of Palestine, Syrian children in the Zaatari and Azraq camps in Jordan, and an NGO in Pakistan.

In addition to storytelling I also use activities which encourage children to draw and talk about their drawings with me, I play fun vocabulary games with them, I help them with their reading, I teach them chants, and I encourage them to tell stories themselves. Everything I do is centred around helping the children to develop their English in ways which are highly motivating and memorable.

An online storytelling session in a library in Gaza

But the project is not just about teaching -it's also about teacher development. I've set up a blog ( ) for teachers where I do a weekly post discussing a different aspect of the sessions, with a short video of an activity. Teachers who work in these contexts can download storytelling material that I've written for use in their their own classes, and can take part in the lively discussion that takes place in the comments after each post.

All this has meant that it's become a full time job for me - and one that until now I have done entirely off my own back. I need £150 a day to continue devoting all my working time to the project and £6000 will cover this until the end of March, by which time I hope to have secured a more permanent solution to funding.

These are the different jobs I do relating to the project....

Telling stories and teaching English to groups of children online

Planning new storytelling and teaching sessions

Creating materials for the sessions.

Liaising with library staff and teachers on the ground about timings of sessions

Feeding back to library staff and teachers about the sessions

Uploading videos of the sessions to be sent to library staff and teachers for showing again to the children.

Editing videos to produce teacher development material.

Writing blog posts about the sessions.

Responding to comments on the blog and the facebook group.

Generally managing the blog, the youtube channel and the facebook group

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Nick Bilbrough