Saphara Be the Change Newcomer week 2022

Saphara Newcomer week proved to be an unforgettable climax to Be the Change programme involving:

142 Primary School Children

134 Sixth Form volunteers

20 Student teachers

36 Teachers

17 Schools

20 hours of educational fun, affirmation & inclusion delivered to newcomer children & their peers.

Following the very successful Be the Change week with teaching college students at Easter, our final event of the year brought the turn of the sixth-form teams. At the end of the summer term, our Year 13 volunteers led 3 fun-filled days of educational activities for six Primary 5 classes from Belfast primary schools in socially deprived area with high percentages of newcomer children.

In recent years schools like Fane Street, Holy Rosary, Malvern, St Bride’s and St Paul’s Primary Schools have welcomed into their communities, families fleeing from countries such as Eritrea, Iran, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, and now added to by refugees from the conflict in Ukraine. Teachers deal daily with the constantly changing challenges of language, culture and trauma on top of the ongoing issues of social deprivation in their catchment areas and we were amazed by the inclusive learning communities which they had managed to create.

It was a privilege to offer these inspiring schools a day out for their P5 pupils to celebrate how their diversity enriches our wider community in Northern Ireland, and how our unique identities and experiences provide common ground, but also opportunities to learn from and grow in respect for others.

Each day a different team of around 45 Year 13 students, worked together to run a variety of activities for these children. Each team had been divided into teaching groups comprised of young people from different education and faith backgrounds who had prepared together for these events at workshops during the year. Their effective teamwork and mutual respect were evident as they worked towards the common goal of ensuring an unforgettable day for and with the newcomer children and their peers.


After refreshments on arrival, the children had the chance to meet and mix with each other during some ice-breaker games in the sports hall, with balls and beanbags, parachutes, treasure hunts and hopscotch helping them to overcome any shyness and find their own voice.

Small groups then participated in a Getting to Know You classroom session with pupils working together on fun language and literacy games. Teaching groups were able to provide lots of individual engagement and support, ensuring that all language abilities were catered for and that everyone felt included and involved.

A lunchtime break included not only a delicious meal, but also more fun and games outside for the P5s and their new ‘teachers’.


With full tummies and legs stretched it was back to the classroom for a craft activity. Each child decorated a large jigsaw piece with their name surrounded by designs depicting their own personality and experience. Creative juices were encouraged to flow with paint, pipe cleaners, tissue paper and glitter adorning these works of art. Craft time ended by building the group jigsaw, reflecting on how individual and unique we are, but how well we all fit together to make a more beautiful and interesting whole.

After reluctantly waving good-bye to the P5 classes, the Saphara teams had their own time to reflect on finding confidence in previously undiscovered skills and abilities, on new friendships and team bonding, but most of all on the children who had inspired them with their enthusiasm, resilience and aspirations for the future, as well as their acceptance and support of each other.

By giving of themselves and bringing dazzling smiles to the faces of the children they met, our 2022 school teams proved that they could indeed Be the Change they want to see in the world.

Sincere thanks are due once again to Stranmillis University College for hosting this event and to St Mary’s University College for their financial support.


Student comments

I really enjoyed learning from the newcomer kids at the teaching event and seeing where they all have travelled from. I think they show how resilient and inspiring children can be in such difficult circumstances.

The Be the Change Award has helped me to appreciate how difficult it can be for children who come from different backgrounds to integrate with those who do not share or understand their culture. It has also opened my eyes to how many children there are from different countries and religions in my local area, and allowed me to discover how well the majority of these children have assimilated amongst their peers, despite often coming from disadvantaged or marginalised communities. I have discovered that human connection is important to every young person, regardless of their ethnicity or nationality, and that friendships can extend beyond language barriers.

The kids also showed so much joy and hope which I loved and made me keener for other cultures to come into our society and bring fresh life.

Being honest I was not aware of the volume of newcomer children here in Northern Ireland so close to home. It has made me more aware and conscious of disadvantaged communities and how I can make such a difference to them by doing the smallest things.

I have realised that this issue of poverty is more common than one may think, at first, I had thought that this problem was very limited in NI. However, I have experienced first-hand that this is a growing issue here, the Be the Change Award has helped me become aware of this issue and through this award I now have the skills, motivation and mindset to help eradicate this marginalization and hardship in my local communities.

Interacting with different children proved that they all have something unique to share and contribute no matter what their background is. We should always be tolerant to those who appear different to us, as every single child wonderful and that is regardless of the hardship that many have faced. I am definitely more aware of the differences that exist in society and now feel in a better position to seek other opportunities to engage with and help more people.

The Be the Change Award has made be truly sit up and pay attention because I have learned to be more understanding.

Team Teacher Comments

The pupil experiences at the Newcomer Day gave a real sense of reality and opened their eyes to challenges currently being experienced by our increasingly diverse society.

The teaching day was a really special day and the pupils haven’t stopped talking about it. Knowing the disruption of the last two years it was particularly special to witness them interact, teach and influence positively the lives of younger children.

Primary Teacher comments

Our P5s loved the day!  Thank you so much for everything! Principal, St Paul’s PS

It is wonderful to see our children, especially the boys, connecting with the Saphara young people – having role models who can inspire them to stay engaged in school and to aspire to a better future. I hope this will just be the start to a great collaboration with Saphara. Teacher, Fane Street PS



Our Programmes


Be the Change Schools

Each year we partner with secondary schools across NI to deliver Be the Change Award to 150 sixth form students.


Be the Change India

We partner with schools and NGOs in India to support their vital work providing education for all.


Be the Change Girls

There are 15 million girls worldwide who are never expected to enrol in school. We want to change that.


Be the Change Colleges

Teaching students from Stranmillis and St Mary’s Colleges to deliver affirming education to marginalised children in NI and in India.

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