Walking from Syria to Steep to support refugees

By Abi Wharton, Head of Global Perspectives, Geography and Politics

On Tuesday 8 March, the Bedales community will be off timetable for our termly community day – this term being Powell Day. It feels particularly important that we spend this day as a community after the tribulations of recent years – coming together to raise awareness and vital funds for those that continue to need support.

We are very excited to give you more information about our collective initiative to walk, as a school, the distance from Northern Syria to Steep in a single day (roughly 4500km). In tutor and year groups, Bedales students and staff will be walking a 10km route around Queen Elizabeth Country Park to raise sponsorship for the Rural Refugee Network, our charity partner. We are encouraging all tutor groups to raise at least £250 in sponsorship but encouraging some healthy competition by awarding prizes to both the tutor group and year group that raise the most in sponsorship!

Students will be able to give family and friends a URL allowing you to donate directly to their team via Give Penny, our chosen fundraising platform. We really hope you will be able to contribute to this worthwhile cause where both you and the students will be able to see exactly where these vital funds go. We would also be delighted if parents would like to participate on the walk itself.

I am also delighted that Gulwali Passarlay, a dear friend of the school who delivered the Global Awareness Lecture in 2017 will be joining us for the day to speak to the students and join us on the walk. Gulwali’s story is inspiring. It includes a 12-month odyssey across Europe to escape war-torn Afghanistan, arrival in the UK and graduation from one of the UK’s top universities. Gulwali Passarlay is a speaker, activist and former refugee who arrived in Britain in 2007, aged just 12, after being separated from his brother during his travels. His best-selling book, The Lightless Sky, is an account of his lone travels as a child including a 50-hour sea crossing in cramped quarters with more than 100 other refugees. At the time of the lecture, I said: “Gulwali’s resilience, determination and humour is a lesson to us all. He has faced unimaginable hardship and had his childhood taken away. Despite this, he bears no grudges, and has instead dedicated his life to raising awareness and improving the lives of millions of people around the world.” I think this message remains important as we look forward to 8 March – and I have certainly quoted the above when students have been a little reluctant about walking 10km!

6.2 leavers raise over £11k for John Badley Foundation

Loet and Cian

Two 6.2 leavers marked the end of their time at Bedales by cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats during the summer break, raising £11,116 for the John Badley Foundation.

Louis Brouwer and Cian Watson set off from Land’s End on 13 July, and spent a fortnight cycling 1,000 miles to the country’s northernmost point.

Impressively, the pair opted to cycle unsupported, carrying their own kit for the entire journey. Overcoming hurdles, including an accident which wrote off Loet’s bike, and even celebrating Cian’s 18th birthday en route, the pair reached John O’Groats on 26 July.

Keen to show appreciation for their time at Bedales and to help others have such an educational opportunity, Loet and Cian used the challenge as an opportunity to fundraise for the John Badley Foundation, which offers financial support through bursaries to students whose family circumstances mean that an independent school education would normally be out of reach. We are grateful to the many 6.2 parents who supported this initiative.

Loet said: “I have always wanted to do something adventurous and physically challenging and I am really pleased that Cian agreed to join in too. Bedales has had such a huge impact in developing me into the person I am. By raising bursary funds through the John Badley Foundation, I’m able to give something back, help others and show appreciation for my education.”