St Joey's staff step up to Bring Back Our Girls

St Joseph's Primary School staff demonstrate to students and our community how to act local and think global by expressing their outrage at the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls. Natasha Brotherton (left) initiated the campaign and received the support of Patricia Paff, Yvonne Nies, Gail Young, Frances Enalaine, Donna Dowsett, Melissa Hunt, principal Mark Mowbray, Rebecca Wilson, Mick Wickham, Adam McCann, Robyn Bielby, Tracey Saunders and Lisa Bourke.

St Joseph's Primary School staff demonstrate to students and our community how to act local and think global by expressing their outrage at the kidnapping of Nigerian school girls. Natasha Brotherton (left) initiated the campaign and received the support of Patricia Paff, Yvonne Nies, Gail Young, Frances Enalaine, Donna Dowsett, Melissa Hunt, principal Mark Mowbray, Rebecca Wilson, Mick Wickham, Adam McCann, Robyn Bielby, Tracey Saunders and Lisa Bourke.

THERE is no place for violence or terrorism in any school and it is this core belief that prompted St Joseph's Primary School teacher, Natasha Brotherton to unite Taree staff to act to support the Bring Back Our Girls campaign.

Staff stood proudly for the photo that immediately became part of the international social media protest that is using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to raise awareness of the kidnapping of 230 school girls on April 15 by Boko Haram terrorists from their dormitory at the Chibok Government Secondary School in Nigeria.

According to the official Facebook page of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign, the "girls were studying for their exams and in the middle of the night armed men ripped them from their beds."

News of the kidnapping distressed Natasha and she says she "felt compelled to do something to express my disbelief and horror at the situation and disgust that we are living in a time and place where this act of terrorism can still occur."

"Knowing that it had occurred in a school, supposedly one of the safest places for children to be, made me think that this could happen anywhere."

On May 11 as Natasha celebrated Mother's Day with her family, she says her thoughts once again turned to the kidnapped school girls.

"I was sitting in the sun spending time with my beautiful family and it struck me again. How must the mothers of these girls be feeling right now and worse, what brutal treatment were these young women facing as I sat freely and safely with my family?" Natasha explained.

The emotion of that moment served as a catalyst for action and Natasha says the "very next day I spoke to principal Mark Mowbray about having a photo with staff holding the #Bring Back Our Girls slogan."

"I wanted to put the message out to all schools in Australia. For them to get behind this movement and put pressure on our politicians to step up and do whatever they can to save these young girls. Mark wholeheartedly agreed to involve the school in this project."

Natasha says "all the staff who were present in the photo were keen to stand up, to demand that there is no place for violence or terrorism in any school and to encourage other schools to do the same.

"It is so important that we stand up to these horrific acts of terrorism. Even a small act of holding a few pieces of paper and taking a photo to support this campaign that has gone viral in the cyber world."

Teacher Donna Dowsett considers the kidnapping to be "an evil act that dishonours humanity and our Creator" and says that "it is the right of every human to live a life of dignity and a life that is empowered through choice and liberty."

As a mother and a teacher, Robyn Bielby says there was never any hesitation in supporting the Bring Back Our Girls campaign.

"Nothing could be more abhorrent to me than someone coming and taking my children from me. Nothing could strike fear into my heart more," Mrs Bielby said.

"It's such a small thing to do but how can anyone stand by and let this happen in 2014 without feeling compelled to act?

"Next to our own homes, schools are safe havens for children. We say it at our school every day every child should feel safe at school. Sadly, that isn't reality for girls in Nigeria.

"It must change. If anyone can contribute in any way to making this happen, even if it seems as insignificant as being a participant in a photo, then I urge them to do so.

"The world needs to step up. These young girls need us to step up."

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