How 13-year-old Sheffield twins are tackling the plight of refugees

Hannah and Joel Thornton have some big ideas about the impact they’d like to have.

By Nik Farah
Tuesday, 30 April, 2019, 10:48
Hannah and Joel Thornton

At an age when many teenagers seem largely wrapped up in a world of social media and reality television, these 13-year-old Sheffield twins have their sights firmly set on more philanthropic goals.

The pair, who are both home-schooled in Meersbrook, began doing volunteer work just before Christmas last year, and each dedicate around four hours a week to local charities. Hannah volunteers each Monday at the open kitchen social club in Sheffield, cooking meals for refugees and vulnerable people, while Joel volunteers weekly sorting clothes for refugees in Calais.

“We’re both displeased by the situations of refugees and asylum seekers and are determined to do something about it,” says Hannah.

“All over the news there’s talk of the ‘migrant crisis,’ of refugees coming over here and people not wanting them to, but really it’s so obviously not us with the crisis - it’s them.

“Last December I was watching a documentary with my parents about all the horrible things happening to refugees in Jordan. It set something off for me. My mum was already volunteering as a cook at the open kitchen, and from that day I asked if I could help too.”

And so determined were the duo to make more of an impact, it wasn't long before they started planning a fundraiser.

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Joel explains: “We felt we could still do more, so we began organising a banquet with a night full of live music, a four-course meal, and life stories from people who came to Sheffield as refugees.”

The event, which was held at the weekend, was also attended by a number of refugees and asylum seekers, who had had their tickets sponsored, and who shared their personal stories. Among the attendees was the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Magid Magid, who also shared his story of coming to Britain as a child refugee in 1994.

The event raised nearly £2,000, which will now be split between the open kitchen social club in Sheffield, and Jerusalem merit, a charity working with Iraqi refugees in Jordon and the middle east.

Joel says: “The refugees that attended were all seated at different tables throughout the room, so that people would have a chance to chat with them one-on-one and hear their stories. We really wanted to build up people’s knowledge of their plight.”

Hannah adds: “I believe there are a lot of young people with a passion for helping out, that need to be given the opportunity to express themselves and get involved.”