Sister Margaret Montgomery, working in the family history centre from Watford Ward, Watford Stake was approached earlier this year by Marisela Gonzalez-Brew, a Spanish subject leader and international projects coordinator based at Holywell Primary School, Watford—just around the corner from the chapel. Marisela asked for the opportunity to display a project about heritage boxes that she was organising.
Heritage boxes are part of an Erasmus+ project called ‘Who do we think we are?’ (Erasmus+ is a European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport). Marisela thought of the idea in February 2018. She and colleagues from Bromet, Oxhey Wood, Hollywell and Parkgate primary schools in Watford, and The British School of Tenerife and CEIP Victoria Díez in Hornachuelos-Córdoba in Spain, wrote a proposal and applied for Erasmus+ funding to develop the project.
This was the first time that Erasmus+ had offered funding for exchange trips for primary school children. They received an answer to their proposal in August 2018; heritage boxes funding was provided for 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 school years.
The intent of heritage boxes is to encourage primary-age children to search for family photos, speak to different generations of their families to obtain stories, and compile as much as possible within a shoebox to display to others. As well as capturing family history for posterity, the project enabled young people from migrant backgrounds to better understand their heritage and to enhance their own skills in media creation, potentially also boosting their employability. It also sought to improve intergenerational connections and community cohesion—both within ethnic and linguistic subgroups and the wider community.
Marisela was delighted to know that she could use the Watford chapel on two different dates in May and June for displaying the children’s work.
Margaret Montgomery advertised these events across the stake. She also ensured family history specialists would be available to talk to visitors, as well as full-time missionaries to answer any questions about the Church; she also organised refreshments.
She said, “The last Saturday in June started slow, but had a fast and furious finish with families coming in to see their children’s boxes and visit others.
“We looked up a couple of obscure countries to see if there was any information available for several people, and there were two very keen families (who were related) looking up their families and we found information that has given them the ‘finding their families’ bug.
“The teachers from the schools presented me with a huge bunch of flowers, and a card that read …
“Dear Margaret and team,
“From our four schools in Watford we wanted to express our gratitude to you.
“You have made possible the exhibition in the way we wanted it to be.
“It has not been only the space—which is great—but your kindness and support which have made the show a very positive experience for all colleagues, families and children.
“Oxhey Wood School, Bromet School, Parkgate School, and Holywell School”
One teacher said, “I had a priceless moment when a child in my class ... was holding the census in his hands from a hundred years ago of the people who lived in his house … that kind of link has been really good for them to think, ‘Wow, this was in my house’.”
This project provided a perfect opportunity for members of the Church to share their passion for family history. Sister Margaret Montgomery’s action in enabling the project, and making welcome the school children and their families, has gone a long way in building good relations with the community.