Ruben wins praise and award

Pictured, from left: Alia Alsoud, Ruben Grace, Louise Merrigan.

Pictured, from left: Alia Alsoud, Ruben Grace, Louise Merrigan.

Sometimes younger people have an edge. They can cut to the chase unencumbered by ideology, political allegiance and the profusion of media chatter that affects the rest of us.

Such is the case with Ruben Grace, a sixth class student at St Conleth’s College, Ballsbridge, who won the ‘Primary Senior’ category of GOAL’s ‘Write the Future’ competition. The competition is part of a development education initiative that invited students nationwide to write to a person of their choice about the ongoing refugee crisis.

Ruben was eleven years old when he wrote his award-winning letter. In it he doesn’t mince his well-chosen words, comparing the plight of today’s refugees, who risk their lives fleeing the devastation in Syria, to the ‘coffin ships’ that carried the Irish away from certain death during the Great Famine.

“As one of the countries that can feel the most empathy, what are we waiting for? Innocent lives will be spared if we help, so why do some people choose to say no?,” he writes.

Demonstrating a remarkable grasp of the wider issues involved he goes on to say, “I can see for myself the poverty that exists in this country among our own Irish people. I have heard adults use this as a reason for us to limit further burdens. The way I see it is that even with our own economic struggles we should rise to the challenge and accept more refugees onto our shores. Humanity and kindness are limitless.”

He makes the point that “the immigrants are not all violent extremists. Thousands are eleven year olds, just like me, who happen to pray to a different God.”

Ruben’s empathy for the Syrian refugees is based on his knowledge the Great Famine in Ireland. Well done to his teacher, Mr Tony Kilcommons, whose history classes are clearly having a positive impact on his students.

Following some meticulous research – he went through all the TD’s on the Leinster House website to find the best person to send the letter to – Ruben chose to address his letter to his local TD and Minister at that time, Kevin Humphreys, who paid a visit to St Conleth’s to accept the letter.

The award was presented by Alia Alsoud, a Syrian aid worker based in Turkey who was visiting Ireland for two weeks. As part of the award, Ruben’s class participated in a day-long workshop, which included the opportunity for students to speak with the GOAL team in Syria via skype. GOAL supports more than one million people inside Syria with food, water and other essential aid.

GOAL Development Education Coordinator, Louise Merrigan, was very impressed with the standard of the entries to the competition, and with Ruben’s letter in particular, saying, “Ruben’s letter was bang on. Everything about the letter is admirable, the structure, Ruben’s language and the sentiment.” She told NewsFour that if Ruben was old enough GOAL would offer him a job on the spot.

She may have some competition for his services. Ruben plans to study law when he is older because he “loves debates.” No doubt whatever path he pursues his emotional intelligence and ability to express his feelings will take him far.

By Jennifer Reddin