Sixteen Year 10 students and two Year 11 student leaders from St. Paul’s Academy in Greenwich undertook an ecology project in June 2014. Eight months on, and the school continues to benefit.
The trip was aimed towards students that had contributed +15 hours of their own time to the school’s volunteering programme. Taking the results of two student focus groups into consideration, it was decided to visit the Downe Campsite in Biggin Hill. The scheme had been designed in partnership with Downe and Bromley Environmental Education Department.
The 4 nights and 3 day camping trip was full of activities. Two days revolved around learning about flora and fauna, tree management and bramble bashing. Ultimately, the young people were pushed to be independent and participate in team activities. For instance, students got involved with map reading, putting up tents, collecting firewood, fire lighting and cooking meals. The school’s ethos is ‘Faith in Action’, and ‘action’ does this school take! The trip participants even helped youngsters from Princess Plain Primary School, Bromley build their camp fire. Students were also rewarded for their impressive volunteering with various on-site activities which included abseiling and taking on the high-wire assult course.
The trip has been a tremendous success in encouraging other young people to get involved in volunteering and environmental conservation. The school now has over 60 students from Year 8-11 dedicating one weekend a month to conserving the waterways of the River Thames and its tributaries through the Thames21 project.
Michael Heath from Thames21, one of the country's leading waterway charities, commended St. Paul’s Academy pupils. He stated: “The students from St Paul’s Academy set a great example to their peers…I and my Thames21 volunteers enjoy working with them. They are cheerful, enthusiastic and have a willingness to get the environment work done. They are an inspiration and credit to their school.”
Greenwich, where St. Paul’s is situated, is the 8th most deprived borough out of the 32 in London. This means that young people lack exciting opportunities - especially to venture out of the capital and volunteer. This highlights the absolute need for project funding. The Jack Petchey Foundation donated a Small Grant of £750 towards sending the young people to Downe Campsite.
The Lawal family epitomise the long-term value of investing in volunteering. Qozeem Lawal (pictured right) volunteered 55 hours when he was a student at St. Paul’s and even decided to return as a student leader in order to inspire other young people. His brother, Habeeb Lawal (left), has tallied up the most volunteering hours in his year – 41! The youngest of the family, Lateef Lawal, is currently on 25 hours and has the most hours in Year 9.
St. Paul’s places a great emphasis on volunteering, believing that it facilitates learning across subjects like Geography, Science, Citizenship, PHSE and even conceptualises ‘Christian Stewardship’ in Religious Studies.
“I hold the belief that any student from any background can find reward and enrichment from volunteering,” says the school’s Jack Petchey coordinator and Assistant Principal, Ozam Akif. “I have been privileged over the last year, since the start of the camping project and funding from the Jack Petchey Foundation, to witness the positive development of students through volunteering. It has lead them to aspire to achieve great goals in life.”
To find out about how you can apply for a Small Grant, click here. Deadline: 31st March 2015.
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