Simple Acts

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Help change the way we see refugees, and ourselves

For Refugee Week 2019 (17-23 June), we’re inviting you to do one of seven new (or revitalised!) Simple Acts, inspired by the theme ‘You, me or those who came before’.

Simple Acts are simple things everyone can do to stand with refugees and make new connections in their communities.

We’re inviting you to help fill our streets, schools, workplaces and online spaces with Simple Acts during Refugee Week this June. But we’re sharing the acts now so those of you already planning for Refugee Week can build them into your events and activities.

Beautifully designed page and full resources coming soon! But for now, we’re proud to present the seven Simple Acts for Refugee Week 2019:


1. Share a story 

The experiences of refugees can feel very far away. But they are all around us, if we know where to look. 

It is a sad fact that war and persecution are nothing new. People have had to leave their homes in search of safety for generations, bringing new perspectives, experiences and talents to the societies they join.  

Britain is no exception. The stories of refugees are right here: in the music we listen to, the food we eat, the books our children read. And when we listen to these stories, it becomes harder to ignore the connections between us – the fact that the contributions and experiences of refugees are part of who we all are. 

This Simple Act invites you ‘meet’ one person who has sought safety in the UK through the generations. To listen to their story, and imagine life through their eyes.  

Stories coming soon.


2. Find out who you really are 

This one is a classic from Simple Acts history. 

We used to introduce it with the surprising fact that the English word pedigree comes from the French ‘pied de grue’ (= ‘foot of the crane’), probably because a simply-drawn family tree looks a bit like the foot of a bird. 

So, we asked, what about you and me? If we traced our lines back to their beginnings, would we find a big-footed French bird – or something equally as unexpected and entertaining?  

The response was fascinating. Millie found out her surname was brought over by peasants from Ireland, while Dev discovered he had roots in Algeria. 

Michelle at Salusbury primary school learned that her family were descended from Huguenots, the UK’s ‘first refugees’, who fled France due to religious persecution in the 17th century 

“I’m glad they found safety in England,” said Michelle, “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here!” 

The theme of Refugee Week 2019 is ‘You, me and those who came before’, so we’re re-issuing our call for you to do a little digging. Can you find a story of migration in your family or community that you didn’t know before? Do you know where your name comes from, and what it means? 

To help in your search, you might: 

  • Talk to your grandparents or older relatives 
  • Look up the meaning of your name or surname 
  • Do a DNA test!  

Let us know what you discover! Share your findings on social media using the hashtags #SimpleActs and #Generations, or email us.


3. Share a dish 

Whenever you get a bunch of people at a table, you learn about the people at that table. The young folks learn about their elders, they learn about their culture and listen to stories about the past.” Mashama Bailey, Chef’s Table 

In a formerly segregated bus station in Savvannah, Georgia, chef Mashama Bailey co-runs the restaurant ‘The Grey’, serving traditional Southern food with a twist. She understands that recipes hold stories, and that by sharing them in new ways, and with new people, we can create new ones. 

This Simple Act is an invitation to come together around a table – old and young, long-standing locals and those who have just arrived – and share in the aromas and flavours of the food you love bestWhether it’s a childhood favourite, a beloved recipe ‘from home’ or a dish from a country you haven’t yet seen, you’ll be embarking on a shared journey, with your tastebuds as your guide 

And as the flavours begin to flow, you might find the stories do, too. Who taught you this dish? Who did you used to eat it with, and when?  

You can bet that when the last mouthful is finished, you’ll all know each other that little bit better. 

We’ll be inviting you to try a selection of recipes from aroud the world, or share your own using the hashtag #SimpleActs, or email us (please also share photos of your dishes, and you enjoying them!). 

Recipes coming soon.


4. Feel the beat 

The melody rises. The drums kick in. Suddenly you’re no longer on the dancefloor, or in your kitchen, or on the bus. You’re transported somewhere else. 

The role of displaced artists in shaping the history of music is far greater than most of us realise (Schoenberg and Freddie Mercury, anyone?) So this Refugee Week, we’re creating a special playlist of tracks that are by artists from refugee backgrounds, or inspired by experiences of people on the move.  

We hope that through the power of beautiful music, you might go somewhere you’ve never been before. 

Put it on. Turn it up. Share it with a friend. Feel the beat. 

Playlist coming soon!


5. Find one fact 

Last Refugee Week, your fact-finding skills shone a light on some shocking and important truths about the way our country treats refugees – such as the fact that the UK is the only European country where people can be kept in immigration detention without a time limit. 

This year, we’re asking you to find and share one fact about refugees through history that you didn’t know before. It could be that the inventor of the Mini was a Greek refugee, or that we have Jewish refugees to thank for the fish in fish and chips (there you go, we just gave you two). 

Use these websites to help you, or find your own trusted sources: 

Traces Project: Timeline of cultural contributions by people who have sought safety in the UK, Counterpoints Arts and UNHCR

The Heritage and Contributions of Refugees to the UK, Refugee Week resource

Records of refugee history held in the National Archives

Refugee timeline and downloadable resources from the Refugee History website (click ‘resources’) 

Did you uncover a fact that surprised you, or that you think more people should know? Tell a friend, or share on social media using the hashtags #SimpleActs and #Generations.


6. Write a poem 

Our partners Amnesty International UK will be inviting you to write a poem on the theme of ‘family’, as part of their human rights poetry initiative Words That Burn. Resource to follow. 


7. Join the Movement  

More people are being forced to leave their homes today than ever before in history. And across the world, people are closing their front doors for the last time only to face life-threatening journeys, separation from their families and, all too often, detention, poverty or isolation when they reach ‘safety’.

Refugees and asylum seekers need our support and solidarity all year round. So once June is over, we hope you’ll carry the spirit and energy of Refugee Week with you, and continue to take a stand. By doing so, you’ll be joining a huge global movement that says, enough is enough. Wwelcome refugees.

From campaigning to volunteering, we’ll be sharing specific ways you can show your support on this page, as Refugee Week 2019 approaches. Watch this space, and join us. 


For even more Simple Acts, check out the 20 Simple Acts launched for Refugee Week’s 20th anniversary in 2018,
and for inspiration, take a look at this roundup of how people responded.