Beacon School’s creative response to survivor request to ‘Tell the stories of those who can not’

In 2017 Torpoint Community College (often referred to as ‘TCC’), a secondary school in Cornwall, successfully applied to the UCL Beacon School programme. With the dedicated Lead Teacher, Mrs Charlotte Lane, and the support of SLT link, we faciliated a special CPD opportunity that sought to engage teachers, TAs, support staff and governors with survivor testimony.

In March 2018 the Centre’s Ruth-Anne Lenga accompanied Holocaust survivor Mala Tribich MBE to the south-east, and for 90 minute’s Mala shared her personal story: from her childhood and family memories of Piotrków Trybunalski in Poland, where Mala was born in 1930, to her experiences of the Piotrków ghettos, her deportation to Ravensbrück and then her journey to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Her story was one of of incredible resilience and fortitude. When the camp was liberated in April of 1945, Mala was just 14 years old.

TCC staff also had the opportunity to ask Mala questions at the end of her presentation. It was very clear that all staff had been part of a very unique and special event. Among the staff present and inspired by the survivor encounter was Ms Debbie Jones, the colleges’ Art and Design teacher.

Debbie was particularly moved, inspired and empowered by a colleagues question: “Mala…what would you like us to do?”

Mala replied “Tell the stories of those who can not”.

Faced with this task, Debbie spent much time with images, sources and information inspired by Mala’s story of survival and produced a sketchbook as a visual record of her research.  She then used this sketch book as a starting point for some incredible work provided by her tutor group as part of the college’s tutor programme, based on the HMD2019 theme of Torn From Home.

This week the Centre received two copies of a very special photo book: each copies of that teachers sketchbook. Its cover image is Debbie’s final piece…a truly inspirational accumulation of all of her thorough and engaging research and a humbling example of how one persons story can inspire not just one colleague, but in turn many young people.

Accompanying this most precious gift, was a note:

‘We hope that Mala and all at the Centre enjoy this sketchbook; as a UCL Quality Mark Beacon School for Holocaust Education, we remain truly inspired, engaged and committed to providing our young people with every possible opportunity to participate in quality Holocaust education.’

We have passed on a copy to Mala, and have retained one in our office. Its proof of how one teacher, her students, a wider school community can be inspired by a survivors testimony. It reminds us, that knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust can take many forms, including resulting in the most incredible artwork.

We know Mala will be as touched, inspired and impressed by the school, its teachers and students commitment to Holocaust education. We will update this post in due course, with her response. But on behalf of the Centre, many thanks to Mrs Charlotte Lane for inspiring this response as Beacon School Lead Teacher at Torpoint Community College – to the remarkably talented Ms Debbie Jones and to the students who were informed, engaged, inspired and empowered by her sketchbook.

What a wonderful creative legacy as a result of Mala’s words!

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