Labeena Hanif Staff Writer
On March 28, 2017, 15 individuals, aged 27 to 44, broke into Stansted airport by cutting through a perimeter fence. They proceeded to chain themselves to an airplane in protest of the fact that the plane had been chartered to take immigrants in U.K. detention centers back to Africa. The protesters did this in full knowledge that they would be arrested; this was an attempt to draw attention to the case.
“[This was] in protest to what [Ruth Potts, one of the protesters] considered to be highly questionable raids on immigrants to this country, whose doors were being knocked on late at night. They were being grabbed and placed on planes to be deported,” Science Teacher David Partridge, who is a friend of Potts, said. “It’s apparently legal, but she would say immoral.”
The intentions behind the act were realized; their protest garnered international attention, and they became known as the Stansted 15. What the group wasn’t aware of were the charges that they would be convicted of. Instead of the expected aggravated trespass charge, they were convicted under anti-terrorism laws due to the involvement of an airport.
The group had faced life in prison, but after appealing their conviction, now walk free.
One thing is clear for Partridge: it takes courage to stand up and do something for a cause one believes in. “I think [Potts] is an amazingly principled and brave person. Not just herself, but the people that she works with,” Partridge said. “She, using our own school’s value, really shows us the courage to act.”
Of his own history, Partridge spoke about how he was “an angry environmentalist” in university.
“I went on a number of marches… Apparently, I came to the attention of the police, because at that time, I was not a British citizen,” Partridge said. “I still am an environmentalist, but I’m a little bit more balanced in my views.”
Rachel Brooks (’22) similarly believes in standing up for what one believes in. “It’s really important, in my opinion, to give back to the community in appreciation for all that I have,” Brooks said. “Actions, in my mind, speak louder than words.”
Whilst living in Nairobi, Kenya for two years prior to moving to London, Brooks was inspired to begin volunteering. “I volunteered in an orphanage and a home for kids whose parents abused them. It made me realize how much I have and how fortunate I am to have all these opportunities. I felt like I needed to do something to help others and that’s what continued my volunteering,” she said.
Brooks and three other friends set up a fundraiser on Valentine’s Day 2018 selling Candy Grams. They raised £650 to go to amenities for refugee families through Brooks’ synagogue. “Over Christmas, after volunteering for a year and a half, this lady came up to me and she hugged me and thanked me for everything I’ve done,” Brooks said. Because of being able to see the product of her work, she believes that actions speak louder than words.
Similarly, Letters of Love, a charity that Micaella Lavi (’21) and Sophia Christodoulou (’21) currently work with, sends letters of affirmation from students in other countries to Syrian refugee children.
Lavi began working with this charity through a summer camp, Seeds of Peace, which she attended during the summer of 2018. Seeds of Peace is an organization that tries to bring people from different sides of conflicts (such as the Israel-Palestine conflict) together through peaceful dialogues. One of Lavi’s counselors at the camp, Pooja Pradeep, was the founder of Letters of Love.
Students and teachers have been writing letters in classes for the past few months, and Lavi held a workshop after school on January 23 for people to drop in and write letters. Each letter has a picture of the sender with it in order to make it more personalized.
“Letters of Love is built on the idea that hope can be given from wherever you are around the world,” Lavi said. “Hope itself given is always influential.”