Little Amal is getting closer to Oxford and on her journey from Syria to the UK this 3.5 metre puppet of a 10-year-old refugee girl is bringing hope and happiness to all she meets on her journey.

Little Amal has inspired a partnership between Asylum Welcome and The Story Museum and together they have created ‘Beyond Amal’, a professional development story guide training initiative. The ‘Beyond Amal’ programme offers training in oral storytelling, development of communication and presentation skills and provides participants with transferable workplace skills. Project participants will put their story guide training into practice by helping to deliver learning sessions to school groups at The Story Museum, in the community and on Little Amal Day in Oxford.

Jan Dogar-Hurd, ‘Beyond Amal’ Coordinator for Asylum Welcome says ” ‘The ‘Beyond Amal’ Project embodies the central mission of Asylum Welcome which is to support, enable and empower the lives of refugees, asylum seekers and vulnerable migrants in Oxfordshire.

Recent educational research conducted by Asylum Welcome reported that refugees and asylum seekers stated their ‘first priority was safety and their second was education.’

Amal’s visit to Oxford has inspired ‘Beyond Amal,’ an education initiative which will not only develop valuable skills for the participants but will help to facilitate a sense of connection and the confidence to make a meaningful contribution to our diverse community. “

The first ‘Beyond Amal’ story guide training workshops took place last week. The sessions started with team building exercises and progressed to understanding and experiencing how a story develops and the techniques that can be used in stories to make them meaningful and engaging. Story guide trainees observed an oral story telling session and then joined in, using effective techniques they had learned to tell a story to an audience. One participant said, “This is the first time I have told a story in English and I enjoyed it very much.” Another said, “First I was very shy but now I feel more confident.”

Another group shared a story in Arabic and translated it into English as the story was being told. It was an exciting experience for the audience to hear the similarities and differences in intonation and expression in both languages. “I enjoyed communicating a story in two languages but my Arabic is more expressive than my English” was a comment made by a participant when she was reflecting on her story telling.

Through stories the “Beyond Amal” project is providing opportunities, developing skills and creating memories. A story guide trainee commented “Stories are part of our memories and give us hope.” On her journey Little Amal is carrying with her a bag of her own memories which she is going to use to tell her story when she joins us in Oxford next week.

When Amal arrives in Oxford on Tuesday 26th October, the newly qualified story guides will use their new skills with confidence and enthusiasm to tell the story of Amal, help guide the public and communicate information about the event. Come and say hello, we would love to meet you and tell you a story!