Sas Mackie, debut children’s book author and illustrator, Crowdfunded £2,800 to travel to European refugee camps and volunteer in order to research her new book, ‘Refuge – A book to help children understand how it might feel to seek refuge.’ The money she raised allowed her to self-publish a 36 page colour picture book aimed at the Under 7 market. The book helps English-speaking children to understand some of the experiences a refugee child will have been exposed to on their journey to Europe.
A personal motivation for the project was Sas’ own experience of having delivered projects in Syria and Jordan while working for the Visual Arts Department at the British Council.
“I can’t believe that the gentle people that I worked with in Syria and Jordan in 2007 have been subjected to the horrors of the civil war over the past 5 years. I felt the need to do something to help on a very basic human level, but I didn’t know what exactly. I was helping some of my A-level Art & Design students to make some beautiful drawings of refugees from images that they found in the newspaper, and it suddenly clicked that these pictures could convey an important message to younger children in the form of a children’s picture book.’
Funds raised from the sale of the book will be donated to Help Refugees.
Sas travelled to ‘The Jungle’ in Calais in April 2016 where she was initiated and introduced to the inhabitants of the camp by Help Refugees volunteers. She found the mood unexpectedly uplifting, “Amongst the ruins of this rotten situation, there was a distinctly positive sense of human survival, a shared focus – everyone is waiting for their moment to complete their journey. The people I met were intelligent, skilled, cultured, keen to learn about the UK and learn English. I taught a couple of English lessons at the school and I was struck by my adult learner’s determination to move forward, to learn and to contribute.”
Sas also travelled to the unofficial refugee camp at Priaeus Port in Athens, which has since been evicted and shut down. She was struck by the experience of the many children there. This visit further inspired her beautiful picture book. Sas wanted to help children living in their home country, speaking their first language and surrounded by familiar people, places, food, and culture, to understand what it might feel like to have been forced to leave all of those things.
You can find the book here.