Nottingham City of Sanctuary teamed up with the National Justice Museum this year for Refugee Week. Using a project that the NJM has used with prisoners in the past, of making Guatemalan ‘worry dolls’, we changed the focus of the project to ask ‘What Does Welcome Mean to You?’ We asked a couple of schools in Nottingham who we thought would be interested in the project if they would like to take part – a secondary school in the process of applying for School of Sanctuary status used the project to work with a small cohort of year 7, and a primary school worked across the whole of years 5 and 6 to make the dolls from wooden pegs and wool. The dolls provided an opportunity for children to discuss what welcome means to them and for pupils whose first language isn’t English to chat with staff and fellow pupils about where they came from.
A group of women from the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum, who had arrived in Nottingham seeking sanctuary, also enjoyed making the dolls, as you can see from the photo.
According to Guatemalan tradition, if children are scared or have nightmares, the Mayan women give them worry dolls before they go to sleep. If you tell the dolls your worries and concerns and put them under your pillow at night, the dolls will do the worrying instead of you and when you wake up in the morning all your worries will be gone.