Monday 23rd May saw the author and journalist Vanessa Altin pay a visit to Loreto Convent School, to speak to pupils about influences for her latest novel, The Pomegranate Tree. Our English teacher Mr Noguera organized the visit for our pupils in years eight and nine, who have been studying the book as part of their English lessons. Mrs Altin gave a passionate insight into how she choose her career as a journalist, working in East Anglia as a correspondent for the News of the World. She engaged the pupils into her personal life, encompassing all detailed facts that attributed to her working as foreign journalist around the Turkey and Kazakhstan area.
“Travel across the Mediterranean Sea to, get into a car, Travel for a day to the back of beyond, travel for another day, turn left and you will find the place where we will get married.”
This was the instruction given to Vanessa by her future husband, who met after Vanessa was seen carrying water-skis around the town. It was with this marriage and its 11,000 guests in an open and barren, dusty space on the Turkey/Syria border that Vanessa became part of the Kurdish community in Turkey, and began to learn about the fight they were engaged in to reclaim their homeland. It was also how Vanessa became acquainted with the plight of the Syrian refugees, fleeing the barbarity of war.
As an enthusiastic journalist reporting for British newspapers, Vanessa was given a task that she describes as searching the haystack to find the needle – looking for three British girls travelling through Turkey to reach Syria and join the forces there. She admits that she did not ever find them, but she did find a town of refugee children and their elderly relatives who had fled the war and stopped in relative safety.
Moved to do something to help, Vanessa raised much-needed funds, lent her support and has continued to do so ever since. Wanting to raise awareness of the plight of these children, she decided to write a book based on their experiences. The Pomegranate Tree is the resulting book, written to help children around the world understand the plight of these refugees.
Vanessa spoke movingly about her experiences and read from the book finishing to a hushed and thoughtful silence from the pupils listening. She was inspiring and thought-provoking and an inspiration to all who had the chance to listen.
This was followed by the pupils asking some questions about the text and book which they have all studied. This gave the pupils the opportunity to find out about the thoughts behind the characters, the reasoning behind the book and if there was to be a sequel. We thank Vanessa and her publishing team for this opportunity. The pupils left the presentation inspired, although inquisitive to find out more.
Read the full newspaper article here on the story behind the book here.
In the May edition of our ‘Update’ newsletter, you’re able to view a video clip from the presentation. This will be due out in Early June.