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Vanessa Altin Visit

Vanessa Altin, Journalist and Author

 In school on Wednesday 8 February

Vanessa Altin, journalist and author of The Pomegranate Tree about the Syrian conflict, WOWED us all in Elgin Academy on Wednesday 8 February.

In the Morning – two sessions

Vanessa spoke to all of our S3 cohort in the morning, followed by a session with pupils from Elgin High School, Lossiemouth High School and Keith Grammar School. Vanessa’s talk was described by pupils as inspirational, awesome and eye-opening. All were engaged, fascinated and focused on Vanessa during these sessions and were buzzing about them afterwards!

Vanessa, who worked at the News of the World and The Sun among other national titles, was shocked when she came across the youngsters who had fled the violence and were left with nothing – including any knowledge of whether the rest of their family was dead or alive.

Vanessa did what she could to help – raising more £2,500 in just a night after a heartfelt plea on Facebook and spending the money on food, sweets and toys for the children. But she knew this was not enough, either for them or to satisfy her need to act on what she had witnessed. Not convinced traditional reporting would get the message across, she decided to turn her hand to writing and pen a book aimed at teenagers to make them aware of what was happening to their peers 3,000 miles away.

The Pomegranate Tree, written in a half-diary half-first person book form, pulls no punches. It is hard-hitting from the get-go, and Vanessa makes no apologies for that. In the opening chapter the reader hears how the central character Dilvan has seen one sister and her assaulted mother put in a truck and driven away, while her baby sister was on the verge of being beheaded before a missile strike plunged the area into chaos. Her father and brothers are away fighting ISIS with Kurdish fighters.

The Pomegranate Tree sheds light on the plight of youngsters affected by the Syria conflict. Vanessa Altin and her family divide their time between England, where she has lived for 50 years, and Turkey where her Kurdish husband Adnan, 44, is from. It was while in Turkey, near the Kurdish border, that Vanessa met the children who would change her perspective.

While the book is fictionalised, it is all based on stories told to Vanessa while in Turkey, prompting her to describe the book as “faction”.

Some proceeds from the book are being donated by both Vanessa and the publisher to Heyva Sor, the Kurdish Red Crescent (Red Cross equivalent).

In the afternoon – tutorial session with senior students

Vanessa met a large group of our senior students in the afternoon. They were joined by Olivia and Ryan, students from Lossiemouth High School.  This was a tutorial session for senior students interested in Journalism, International Relations and Politics and was much appreciated by all who were there. Vanessa shared her journalistic experiences and chatted to the students about their interests. Olivia also interviewed Vanessa about refugees and the UK policy on asylum seekers for her Higher Modern Studies assignment.

More copies of The Pomegranate Seed were sold and at the end of the day, Vanessa sat down to a mammoth signing session, aided by her Girl Friday, Ruth Keane from Blanket Press.

Staff and pupils dropped in throughout the day to chat to Vanessa and hugely enjoyed meeting her.

 

Conclusion

All of us agreed that Vanessa’s event was incredible. Her sessions were informative, inspiring, entertaining and thought-provoking.

This was an awesome event and a memorable day.

Thank you Vanessa Altin and Ruth Keane too.

We would like to see The Dynamic Duo again!