Children from all over the world have been writing messages of love and support to one another during the coronavirus pandemic.
Durham County Council’s international relations team has teamed up with schools across the county – and as far afield as France, Spain, Hungary and beyond – to create a virtual friendship tree.
At a time when many children are unable to go to school or play with their friends, the project aims to forge friendships across the globe and let youngsters know that they are not alone.
The project has been inspired by the Friendship Tree installation at Lumiere Durham last year. This saw the council commission North East artist Mick Stephenson to create a magical tree installation, featuring illuminated plastic bottles containing messages of hope penned by schoolchildren in countries across every continent.
This time, pupils in school and those being educated at home will take pictures of their messages, which will then be sent to the council and displayed on the Durham Lumiere Friendship Tree Instagram page.
Cllr Joy Allen, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: “The Friendship Tree was a very popular installation at Lumiere, with its messages of love, peace and respect for other cultures serving as a shining example of what can be achieved when we work together.
“Right now, all over the world, we are facing the biggest challenge since the Second World War. Although we cannot be together physically, it is important we show children that we are still part of a caring global community. Creating a virtual friendship tree is a wonderful initiative and I can’t wait to read all of the children’s messages.”
Among the County Durham schools taking part is Tanfield Lea Community Primary School near Stanley, where children have been creating colourful illustrated messages, complete with rainbows, hearts and sunshine.
Headteacher Kay Hemmings said: “No sooner had I sent the request out to our parents and children, asking them for messages of friendship to send to our friends across the world, the pictures started flooding in. The project has clearly inspired them.
“The children are missing their friends so much right now; missing playing together, talking together, learning together. Shared projects like this help them to remember they are not alone.
“Our Twitter page is a strong link for our school community, and our families have enjoyed sharing pictures of life in lockdown including home learning, daily walks, artwork, physical challenges and activities completed in childcare. We have been sharing the Virtual Friendship Tree messages on there as well as on Instagram and they have received a wonderful response.”
Cllr Olwyn Gunn, cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Durham County Council, said: “This is another example of the commitment of schools in County Durham to develop children into citizens of the world.
“By working alongside our international team, schools like Tanfield Lea Community Primary School are promoting the importance of being a good neighbour on a global scale and spreading messages of hope and positivity when it is needed most.”
To view the messages uploaded on Instagram so far, visit www.instagram.com/durhamlumierefriendshiptree