Following the tragic events of the Grenfell fire, we look at how communities can help survivors as they try to cope with their experience. These activities prompt learners to consider how people can help each other after such a terrible event, and build understanding about the needs of those affected.
Grenfell community responses
Introduce the Grenfell fire as the topic for discussion. Ask the young people what they already know about the disaster. The fire broke out in the early hours of 14 June in a 24-storey tower block in North Kensington, London. At least 80 people died in the fire, with many more left traumatised and without a home. Discuss how some people in the class may have a personal connection to Grenfell, which they may wish to share.
Explain that some recent tragedies – such as the attacks in Barcelona and in Westminster – happened in public places, away from where people live. The Grenfell disaster took place in their own community, where lives have been shattered. Many of the survivors are living around other people who shared the same experience. Therefore, they are likely to have a greater understanding of what others are going through.
While Grenfell has received a lot of media coverage, there are many local acts of humanity, mutual kindness and support that never make the media. Divide your class into small groups and ask them to consider how people could support each other in the months after the disaster, for example by:
- offering to talk to each other about how they are feeling;
- providing practical support, such as cooking a meal for someone;
- helping with childcare.
Explain that there are no wrong answers, and even things that seem small can sometimes help quite a lot.
Groups feed back to the class with their ideas – use their suggestions to create a mind map on the whiteboard.
As a class, suggest other things the wider community might do as a whole to try to cope with their loss. These can be ideas the young people have or actual events that happened, such as:
- a summer activity programme – including art and sporting activities – for children and young people in the area;
- a special production of Bugsy Malone by Avondale Primary School, some of whose pupils were directly affected by the fire;
- Game4Grenfell, a celebrity match at a local football club, QPR, which raised money for the survivors;
- massages, relaxation sessions and art therapy from local volunteers.
Add these ideas to the spider diagram.
Display the quote “Making new memories” and explain that this was how one former Grenfell resident described Game4Grenfell. The group could build a small arts, craft or communication project around the idea of making new memories. They can use the ideas in the mind map for inspiration. How might they represent the idea in a poster, poem, picture or other medium? What central message would they be trying to get across? How could they do this sensitively? What kind of things would they want to include or avoid?
“Hold our loss in your mind”
Show this photograph – explain that it was taken a month after the fire and was on a fence around the remains of the tower block. Invite immediate thoughts. Then, working in groups, ask the young people to consider the following:
- Who might this notice have been written for?
- How might the person who wrote the notice be feeling?
- Why might a member of the public take a photo of this building?
- Do you think this notice would make a visitor change their mind about taking a photo?
- What message might this notice be aiming to get across?
Discuss as a whole class and compare answers. Explain that people take photos for different reasons and mention that some young people in the room may have already taken a photo of the building, or seen photos taken by others. Encourage them to share how they were feeling while they took the photo.
The notice asks people not to take selfies. Ask young people, in pairs, to role play a conversation between the two people below. The aim here is to acknowledge each other’s views and recognise any good intent. Consider how this conversation would develop:
- Visitor. Someone taking a selfie with the Grenfell tower as a background, intending to share it on social media. They want to show their followers their deep feelings and concern for those injured and grieving.
- Local person. Someone from the local community who is distraught about what has happened. Seeing people taking photos outside their former home upsets them even more. They can see the visitor about to take a selfie.
Feed back to the whole class – how did the conversation go?
As a whole class, encourage ideas of what the visitor might do to help the local person. Taking a photograph could be upsetting, so is there anything the visitor could do instead? They could, for instance, ask how the local person is feeling and what help they need. What might the local person say? They may want to say how they feel, or simply express a wish for privacy. Write the young people’s ideas on the board. (Our Emotional support teacher briefing has more on helping others in distress.)
In the same pairs, and in the same roles, continue the conversation using the ideas on the board as a prompt.
As a whole class, ask young people how this second conversation was different. How do they feel now? Was there anything that surprised them? Have they changed their minds about this subject?
This resource was written by P. J. White of Alt62 and published in September 2017.