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Young poets tackle climate change and migration

Young people aged 11 to 18 years from across Ireland used their poetry to place themselves in the shoes of people forced into migration due to the ever worsening effects of climate change for the Trócaire Lent 2016 Poetry Competition for Schools.

Líadh Robertson, aged 15 from An Spideál, Galway, won the younger category with her poem ‘Running from the Sun’. 

Líadh’s poem envelops the reader in a sense of despair and bewilderment, where they have to, “desperately seek an unknown horizon”. Due to drought, “the tears on my cheeks, is the only water for miles”, and, “running from the sun is an impossible game”. 

Liadh Robertson

Competition winner Líadh Robertson (15, right) from An Spideál, Galway, pictured with religion teacher Muireann Uí Nuadhnáin (left) and Trócaire’s Deirdre Walsh (middle).

Running from the Sun, by Líadh Robertson

I’m leaving everything I have,
Yet that’s nothing at all. 
Desperately seeking an unknown horizon, 
So uncertain, so small.
Because the grass and the fields and the flowers are dead,
And all that grows now is worry, inside of my head.
And the sands here are scorched, like a fire’s debris, 
And you must travel for days to come in sight of a tree.
The tears on my cheeks, 
Is the only water for miles.
Because the oceans are empty,
And so are the clouds in the sky.
The animals are long gone, all the wildlife now scattered,
And I’m forgetting my old life, and everything that once mattered.
The only consistent thing, in my life now is fear,
I don’t know if I’ll be happy there, but I’m not safe here.
Survival is a competition, not many people can win.
And this feels like the end, so where can I begin?
Running from the sun is an impossible game,
But when your homes are destroyed,
Who’ll be to blame?

Siofra Devine, from Ballyshannon, won the older category by focusing on the commonalities that connect us and allow us to empathise with the situation of others in her poem ‘Castaways’.  

Siofra begins by highlighting a familiar desire to find a place where we feel safe and are accepted; we are all, “searching for a stretch of land to call home”.

Siofra goes on to describe the arduous journey of a refugee that often ends in rejection; “they punish us when we reach the shores”. 

Siofra Devine

Competition winner Siofra Devine (17, second from right) from Ballyshannon, pictured with two school representatives (left) and Trócaire’s Rosie Murray (right).

Castaways by Siofra Devine

We are all castaways
Searching for a stretch of land
To call home.

So tired, so cold, so sick.
So sick of it all.
No safe place.
Nowhere to feel protected.

They punish us when we reach the shores.
We thought our journey was over
But it has just begun.

It drives them.
Weary of our motives.
We just want to rest.

Violence and guns
And shouting.
Is not our friend.

We wish we had never come here.
But where else?
We are not welcome anywhere.

We are all orphans.
We are all castaways.

The Trócaire Lent 2016 poetry competition encourages young people to reach out in solidarity to those around the world in situations of displacement and poverty. This process supports engagement with global justice and development issues, allowing young people an opportunity to use their creative writing skills to express their intellectual and emotional responses to situations of injustice. 

The young poets displayed a level of skill beyond their years, penning words and phrases that bring the ever-worsening reality of climate change and forced migration to the forefront of our minds.

In the words of Liadh Roberston, it could be any one of us, “leaving everything I have.”

Second place winners

CATEGORY: Ages 11 to 15 years

The Inconvenient Truth by Ruth Guildea, Balbriggan

Swash takes the shape of a child
Who tried to escape the horrors in the wet and wild,
Mothers groan in tune with the boat
As men hold the sides to keep it afloat

This mass exodus is emblematic of a system we have built, 
Yes – I must include myself in this guilt.

140 characters decide a race’s fate
Our social talks are too little, too late
Our phones light up with hashtags and petitions
That do nothing to help refugees in their current position.

This mass exodus is emblematic of a system we have built,
Yes – I must include myself in this guilt.

Young people give up education and future lives
To travel to the Western World to survive
They give all they have for a safe trip across the sea
After being broken, beaten and forced to flee

This mass exodus is emblematic of a system we have built, 
Yes – I must include myself in this guilt.

We ignore the ads with sad kids to avoid that sinking feeling
That we’re not helping what we’re seeing
We comment and share miserable news
Of the ones we will also lose

This mass exodus is emblematic of a system we have built, 
Yes – I must include myself in this guilt.

You Are the One with the Choice by Peter Dobey, Newbridge

You are the one.
The one who drives home in your impersonal car.
The one who’s mind is focused,
Only on the smell of burning gasoline as you hurry to your warm home.
Gas you could smell from across the globe.
I am the one who does nothing.

You are the one.
The one who sits calmly by the fireplace.
The one who drifts away,
Only to dream of the bright sparks that illuminate your warm home.
Flames you could see from across the globe.
I am the one who does nothing.

You are the one.
The one who tends to your own needs first.
The one who stays indoors,
Only to see your beautiful garden wither and die from the comfort of your warm home.
Pain you could feel from across the globe.
I am the one who does nothing.

I am the one.
The one who smells this poisonous gas.
The one who witnesses this raging wildfire,
Only to feel the pain as smoke engulfs the barren wasteland I can no longer call home.
Suffering from what is happening across the globe.

I am the one who is begging at your doorstep.
You are the one who does nothing.

CATEGORY: Ages 16 to 18 years

Refugee by Adam Taggart, An Spideál

I’ve been walking now three days
looking for my saviour
The beautiful country I left
Burning, crumbling and wasted.

My belongings on my back
and my daughter in my arms,
Does anyone know where my wife 
and son are?

I come now to a fence
where people beg and cry
I wish the guards would tell
The truth, And not just look
and lie. I look to my left. Then
I look to my right,
I get a sense of panic, a sense
of fear, a sense of fright.

We know we will not be let in,
because they do not want us
“please let us in sirs, most of
us are harmless”

We may be different,
but we are the same,
I look at mothers’ faces
as they cry out in vain.
I cry with them and it is heard from afar.
Does anybody know where my wife and son are?

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