Fundraising for Syrian Refugees at Perth Academy Library

Elizabeth Laird's book Welcome to Nowhere  is a poignant and affecting story about Syrian refugees, and was shortlisted for the 2018 Scottish Teenage Book Prize. Moved by the story, Perth Academy pupils decided to harness their baking talents and hold a cake sale to support a family in The Hope School  in Jordan. We asked librarian Andrea Cooke and her pupils to tell us more about the project!


Tell us a little bit about your book club’s involvement in the Scottish Teenage Book Prize this year and previous years.

We learned a lot about how people were losing their homes and families... It was really scary to find out that people really went through that.

(Andrea Cooke) We have followed the shortlists and attempted to read the titles during lunchtime book club. In the past, we attended the ceremony when it was held in Glasgow and won the quiz - we still have the trophy here in the library. A couple of years ago we entered the book trailer competition, submitting a book trailer based on Jumblebum which involved a haunted tumble dryer.

Tell us a little bit about your reaction to Welcome to Nowhere. What did you like about the book and how did it make you want to do something to help?

(AC) We very much enjoyed reading Welcome to Nowhere and we agreed that it was a bit of a slow starter but then became quite exciting! We loved the characters and the section at the back of the book about Hope School was a great addition to the book.

(Pupils) We felt emotionally connected to what was happening in the book. We learned a lot about the war in Syria and how people were losing their homes and families. We didn’t realise that it was so difficult to get to the refugee camp and when they arrived they expected so much but experienced poor conditions like soggy tents! It was really scary to find out that people really went through that. We were left wondering what happens to them after they get to the UK.

Can you tell us a little bit about the fundraising project? How did you get started, and how did things progress?

We were touched by their gratitude and the photo that was sent from children in the camp

(AC) We had to reserve a date with the school and notify parents because we were depending on them to help with providing baking! We then created some posters and a short film to promote our cause around the school. The teachers helped provide some baking, including a delicious chocolate salami…

(Pupils) We definitely know that pupils at our school love cake, and it’s an affordable option for most people. Maddy and her grandmother made a cake; Beth and her mum created a giant book-shaped cake; Niamh made Agatha Christie-themed cupcakes and Emily made chocolate Oreo cupcakes. We set up and ran a stall. We also had a “Guess the number of sweeties in the jar” at the stall, which raised some money. Niamh says she actually won that competition but somehow did not get the sweeties…

We enjoyed the whole cake sale! There is a lot of mentioning of skiving off classes but Mrs Cooke doesn’t see it that way! 

What do you think the impact of this venture has been on you and your pupils?

(AC) It is possible that in Perth young people aren’t witness to some of the issues that might be more visible in urban areas. However, the book club members felt that the book was very motivating for them in terms of this specific issue.

(Pupils) We really felt that we could help! The photos that were sent from the refugee camp were quite touching as well (a discussion ensued about what makes pupils cry: Eva says she never cries; Beth and Maddy said that sometimes they cry inwardly). We were touched by their gratitude and the photo that was sent from children in the camp. We were also thrilled to be contacted by Elizabeth Laird, the author of Welcome to Nowhere, and mentioned in the Scottish Book Trust video announcing the winner of the Prize!

This is a lovely example of how important a school library can be. How important is your school library to you?

(AC) We are a multi-functional facility (currently run off our feet with pupils coming in working on assignments in the senior school) and we try to promote reading for pleasure through reading awards in the junior school. Our library is heavily used but under resourced, and we’ve begun to look to local charities to get the upgrades we need.

(Pupils) The library is extremely important. Sophie says the library is a good place to read books. Maddy says there are kind people who run the library. And another good thing is, we can take cover from the great outdoors! 

You can find out about and support The Hope School here.

If you're looking for other ideas for projects, why not check out the case studies in our resources section, or see our other blog posts on creating a reading culture in school? You can also have a look at some fantastic projects from school libraries in this blog post.