Their Love Grows: teacher's run leaves footprints for his students

When teacher Michael Eccleston set out in June for his #3weeks2days Refugee Awareness Run, his aim was to raise awareness of the plight of refugees and contribute to funds for the CatholicCare Refugee Centre in Mayfield.

However, to one St Joseph’s High School, Aberdeen, student and her friends, it was the beginning of a creative journey motivated by lessons from a very influential teacher.

#3weeks2days Refugee Awareness Run was inspired by the story of a Sierra Leone refugee and CatholicCare Refugee Service (CCRS) Project Officer, John Sandy, and his journey of 3 weeks and 2 days to make a phone call to his wife.

Having heard John speak many times, Samantha says she is “passionate about refugees getting what they deserve, to feel safe and have a good life”.

On the last day of the #3weeks2days Refugee Awareness Run, Samantha’s father, Kyle, drove Sam and her friends nearly two hours to the Refugee Centre to see Mr Eccleston cross the finish line, an event which Samantha describes as a really moving time for her.

“The refugees I saw are so grateful for the smallest things, like a ball they were given after the run…they were just so grateful for this really small gift. I found it super touching and it made me feel really lucky,” said Samantha.

It was the theme of John’s story, “no one chooses to be a refugee”, that really hit home for the musician and inspired her and her friends to spend a singer/songwriter weekend workshop collating their piece.

Her former teacher Mr Eccleston has awakened an awareness in this student that is shaping her opinions and music. Sam is very articulate about her passion for refugees and the justice of equality for their living conditions in Australia.

When asked the origin of her passion for equality, Samantha replied, “Mr Eccleston is amazing, there are not enough words to describe him, every day he is inspiring, and before him I had only a slim understanding of refugees and their status in the Australian community.”

Samantha tells me she wants to be a music teacher and explains that she is auditioning for ASPIRE and whilst she will hopefully be on exchange in New Zealand next year, she is auditioning so that they remember her. Having spent the last hour with this impressive Year 9 student, I can’t imagine ‘Samantha Bell’ is a name that will be forgotten.

“Their Love Grows” officially premiered on 11 November as part of the Arts Upper Hunter ‘Thank You Soiree’. Samantha performed with her co-writers, former students Eadie and Macey Limon, who were students of Mr Eccleston at St Joseph’s.

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Amanda Skehan

Amanda Skehan was the Marketing Team Leader for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and a regular contributor to Aurora and

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