Taking responsibility for others: Kathy Germain and the food bank
Every pupil needs to see a copy of the interview and the interview questions, and see a picture of Kath. Please be aware that this story is true and powerful but does contain facts that may be sensitive for some children. Please read it first. If it would not be suitable, use the story of how foodbanks evolved and adjust the material accordingly.
Food poverty is often hidden in a community, and sometimes thought shameful. Be sensitive to the possibility that some of your pupils’ families may have personal experiences of using a food bank – and bear this in mind when leading any class discussion.
You will need to decide on the focus for this lesson before you start – Literacy or RE? Perhaps one lesson could follow another.
Ask: have you ever seen somebody in need, and wanted to help? What happened? (Quick discussion in pairs, then feedback.) Sometimes this can lead to amazing things.
Give out copies of the interview with Kathy Germain for primary schools. Explain that we’re going to be finding out about one person who began helping with a problem that was hurting lots of people.
As we study the interview together, we’re going to pause at different points, and I’ll want you to quickly talk about, then jot down an answer to, one or more of the questions below. When we’ve finished, you’ll be using your answers to think a bit more deeply about the interview.
What is a food bank?
How did Kathy first get involved with her food bank?
In what ways does Kathy serve her local community now? List them.
What do you think were the most significant moments for Kathy in becoming a Christian?
How does being a Christian make a difference, for Kathy?
Find three key quotes from the interview, that you think best sum up Kathy as a person – about her life, what she believes, or what she does. Which do you think is the most important? Copy it out, then explain your choice.
When this is finished, discuss the questions and some pupil answers, reinforcing key ideas and correcting any possible misconceptions.
Key task: Sum up the main points of this interview in a few sentences that answer these key questions that make up any good report: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Add a conclusion that sums up your personal impression of Kathy’s work (‘I think….’)
(Less Able pupils may appreciate some prompts, such as ‘sentence starters’.)
Afterwards, choose from the following tasks:
Having read Kathy’s interview, what sorts of skills do you think are needed if someone wants to become a food bank volunteer? How do you think people who need to use a food bank should be treated? Write a job description for volunteers to work at a food bank. What character attributes (e.g. sensitivity, ability to organise) might be most useful?
Can you remember the last time you felt really hungry? If not, can you imagine what it might be like? Write about it as a short story, a diary entry, or poem. Try to use evocative language that really explains the feelings.
Kathy could have said a great deal more! Interview questions need to be open-ended (avoiding simple Yes/No answers). If you could ask a few more interesting questions of Kathy that would reveal even more, then what might they be? Explain your choice.
Making a difference
If somebody asked the question, ‘What difference does it make if you’re a Christian?’, how do you think Kathy might answer?
Light as a symbol
- List ten different ways by which people use light to make their lives better. Jesus Christ once called himself ‘the Light of the World’. Can you think of any ways he might be a ‘light’ for Christians? (Look at your list and think…)
- Light meant something very special to Kathy, because of what happened to her when she was young. Draw a candle or a lamp. On the left side of it, write words that could describe what Jesus Christ was to Kathy, as a child. On the right, add some words describing what Jesus Christ was to Kathy in 2006. Then explain two of your choices with a couple of extra labels beginning ‘Because…’
- When somebody understands something for the first time, it is sometimes called ‘seeing the light’. For Kathy, becoming a Christian in 2006, was like seeing a bright light for the first time. Why do you think she still uses those words now? (In what ways might she be sharing or reflecting that ‘light’ now with others?)
1. One of Kathy’s favourite Bible passages is from the last chapter of the Old Testament book of Job. This tells the story of a rich farmer named Job who suffers all sorts of disasters and illnesses. He complains to God about it for a long time, until finally God answers him. Finally, Job says:
‘I know that you can do all things. No plan of yours can be ruined…Surely I talked about things I did not understand. I spoke of things too wonderful for me to know… My ears had heard of you before. But now my eyes have seen you…'
The Lord blessed the last part of Job’s life even more than the first part…. He lived to see his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.
(From Job 42, International Children’s Bible)
From what Kathy has said about her life and work in the interview, why do you think this story is one of her favourites?
2. Many food banks are supported by the Trussell Trust, which takes this Bible passage as its motto:
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.
This is part of Jesus’ famous ‘parable of the sheep and the goats’. Find and read the original story in Matthew 25:31–46. Who is saying these words in the story? What might this be saying about people who need help? What special message might it have for any Christian who works in a food bank?
Christians and worship
Christians often have favourite worship songs for personal reasons. Two of Kathy’s favourites are ‘Blessed Assurance’ (‘I want that at my funeral!’) and ‘I the Lord of Sea and Sky’ (‘Because it has those lines, ‘Here I am, Lord’, ‘ I will go’, and ‘if you will lead me’’). After reading the interview, find and read the lyrics of both songs, listening to the music at the same time if possible. What do you think is the message or big idea in each song? Try to sum each message/big idea in a sentence. Why might these lyrics be particularly important for Kathy’s life and work? Have a think, then write about them.
Focus on answers to the question about key quotes from the interview. What do we think are the most significant quotes – and why?
The transcript of this interview has been edited for use with primary school pupils.
Kathy’s food bank was the setting for one key scene in the 2016 Ken Loach film ‘I, Daniel Blake’, filmed in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. The responses of Kathy and the other volunteers to a special moment of (pre-planned) action were unscripted – the director had told them to simply react as normal in that situation. This much praised film is now available on DVD. It is not suitable for children, but many church dioceses are using it for discussion purposes with adult groups.
Kathy and her team received training from the Trussell Trust, which supports over 400 food banks across the UK. In 2016, 1,109,309 three-day emergency food packs were given out nationally to people in crisis due to changes in benefits, escalating debt, illness and other issues. The Trussell Trust is a charity founded on Christian values that works with people of all faiths and none. Its guiding principles are inspired by the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:35–36.
For more information, see: www.trusselltrust.org/about/mission-and-values