Poetic harmony

manal younus

A homeless woman

The money I gave to her

Made her smile today

Buying lunch in the centre of Melbourne with just $5 to spend might seem to be  merely an exercise in thrift and ingenuity. But a Kingswood College student added another dimension by giving change she had left over to a woman sleeping rough on the streets before sitting down to chat with her.

The student was one of 94 Kingswood College year 10s who had spent the morning listening to spoken word artist Manal Younus, who shared her poetry to demonstrate the power of words in shaping the stories that people tell about themselves and others.

The synod office in central Melbourne hosted the students in March to celebrate Harmony Day, which is also known as the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The theme of the Kingswood event was “There is no way to peace; peace is the way”.

Ms Younus, who came to Australia as a refugee from Eritrea at age three, asked students to think about what made them who they are and write poetry about a time that formed their self-identities.

They were also asked to think about the unfavourable assumptions that have been made about them and the negative assumptions they have made about others.

For the lunch break, as well as being challenged to buy their meal for only $5, students were asked to observe what was happening to them and around them, by slowing down and noticing examples of harmony and disharmony.

When the students returned they formed groups to share their experience through storytelling, dramatisation or poetry.

Out of this emerged the above haiku about the homeless woman and another contribution about awareness:

Walking through the street

Aware of your surroundings

Make way for others

The Harmony Day event was a collaboration between Kingswood College, synod schools project worker Sarah Lockwood and interfaith community development officer April Robinson.

“It was powerful to spend a day with students thinking about how they might be part of creating a better world.” Ms Lockwood said.

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