It turned out to be an afternoon of magic, fantasy and colour as 300 children from across London, including Westminster, gathered for the first ‘Heartstone Odyssey Procession’ in Westminster Cathedral Piazza on July 12, 2018 to mark the start of International Story Circles, the start of Heartstone projects beyond schools reaching libraries, community centres and for the first time, overseas locations. Opened by Bishop John Wilson, Ms Laura Haynes, Head of the UK Committee for UN Women and Dame Louise Ellman, MP, together with special guests marking the partnership with China and India, and a host of other VIPs, this was a memorable occasion.
Using masks, facepaint, colourful banners and plenty of imagination, the children represented the mouse characters and themes in ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’. Alongside the children, representatives of the many different communities resident in Westminster also took part in the procession celebrating the wide cultural diversity of the borough and making this event an extraordinry ‘coming together’.
‘As you know, a mosaic is a picture made up of many different tiny coloured tiles,’ said Bishop John.
‘Each one of them is unique and each one of them is essential. Today we are a mosaic. Together we are a beautiful picture of humanity, all of us created in God’s image and called to love God and each other.
‘Lord our God, for everything you give us, we thank you. And we ask for your blessing upon each and all of us today as we share and grow in the ways of harmony and peace, discovering each other as friends and waking together in unity. Lord, we thank you. Amen.’
Ms Laura Haynes said:
‘We work in part of the UN to try and change the world for the better but you know what I think, when I look at you here, I think the real people that are going to help us change the world for the better are sitting here, not standing back there, because you are going to help us find a new way to work together. We set up UN Women because we said it is no longer acceptable for boys and girls and men and women to not be equal, because we are all equal, aren’t we, we should all have the same opportunities, shouldn’t we, and we should all be able to achieve what we want to do and make a difference in the world. And that’s what we are here to celebrate and what we are here to support. We are so happy to support The Heartstone Odyssey. The reason for that is that I look at Chandra and I think to myself, this is a young woman who had a dream and it was her aim to achieve something special. She said, no matter what obstacles get in my way, I am going to achieve that, I am going to learn, I’m going to work with others, I am going to push down the barriers, I am going to help those who need help and I am going to achieve my dream. So my job and your job, in a few years, is to help make that happen even more and the reason for that is that every girl and every boy should be able to dream and everybody should have the opportunity to achieve those dreams. And you know why else, it’s because it’s time, so help me make that change. Thank you.’
Dame Louise Ellman MP said:
I am very happy to be here today and to see how enthusiastic and excited you all are about this really important project you are all part of. I have known the Heartstone project for a long time. in fact i first knew about Heartstone in its very early days in 2000, that’s 18 years ago. That’s when Sitakumari first brought Heartstone to Liverpool, the area I represent in Parliament. Sita invited me to come and it was very different from anything I had ever seen before. It was an exhibition of stories, pictures and journeys, some created by young people, about their hopes, about what lives they wanted to have. I have seen Heartstone grow since those early days. That includes seeing a performance of The Heartstone Odyssey at Liverpool Cathedral, a very special occasion, and also seeing schools from across the country come together in the House of Commons in Parliament. You are united in being together and working for one world where everyone is valued. I hope you enjoy today, keep working together, keep working for a better world. That is what we are all about and you are the people who can make it happen.’
Eddie Chan, Director of the CNHLC (above) said:
‘We are honoured to be part of the launch of International Story Circles and great to see so many of you here. I would like to thank Sita and her team for having the vision and passion to bring this story to people’s hearts across the globe and to all our special guests who are joining us for this occasion. The Chinese community everywhere are no stranger to living in foreign lands and have often faced dthe same issues that young Chandra faces so we are proud to spread the message of ‘The Heartstone Odyssey’ all over the world.’
The event was livestreamed worldwide and included live interaction with childen gathered in Maun, Botswana who had come together to watch the event and start their own International Story Circle.
Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Education and Community Cllr David Harvey said:
“I want Westminster to be a community where anyone feels included, regardless of race, background or religion. I hope this event inspires young people to be optimistic and ambitious about their future in this city.”
Sarah Dorman, who came with the children from Campsbourne said:‘The students in my class have absolutely loved this project! I can’t put into words how effective it has been in creating an environment of acceptance and tolerance. The children have loved reading the book and we have spent hours and hours discussing all of the different issues and ideas that arise throughout each chapter. One of the biggest differences I have seen since the start of the year is the ability these children have to debate and challenge each other’s ideas in a respectful and mature way. We have also been able to incorporate some very meaningful art and poetry into the project! The finale event was the perfect way to celebrate all of their hard work and bring the story together. It has been so successful that we will continue to run the Heartstone Project in Year 5 next year!!’
The day was made possible thanks to the involvement of Heartstone Advisory Council and Team members Wendy Emberson, Elena Noel, Alex Emberson, Shannon Emberson, Mariam Aiteouakrim and volunteers from Hear Women including Ellie Angus and Vittoria De Meo.
The journey of The Heartstone Odyssey continues!
All photographs in this post were taken by
Alan Smith Photography
Carnaval del Pueblo
We are grateful for the support of the following in the staging of this event:
WESTMINSTER CITY COUNCIL
TESCO FOR THEIR DONATION OF WATER.
CHINESE NATIONAL HEALTHY LIVING CENTRE
ABBEY COMMUNITY CENTRE
WESTMINSTER BANGLADESH ASSOCIATION