A different approach to volunteering
Over the past 12 months, the students have been determined to make the very best of co-curricular Service under lockdown, which has proved a little more challenging. Pre-lockdown, students visited care homes and the homes of the elderly, and with this no longer possible they reached out to local charities to explore other possibilities. During the autumn term of 2020 students teamed up with Age UK Derby and Derbyshire to make regular calls to isolated elderly residents. This gave students valuable social skills and broadened their perspective on loneliness and isolation. The culmination of this work led to Lucy Matthews, Deputy Head (Co-Curricular) and a few of the students involved in the project being interviewed by Sally Pepper on BBC Radio Derby and featured in an article on the Derbyshire Times website
Extracts from the radio interview with Sally Pepper highlighted the value of working in the community as Lucy Matthews commented: “It’s really important for us as a school to be engaged with the community, and that has been a challenge during the last year to find meaningful projects that we can get involved in. I feel privileged to be in a position where we can make someone’s day a bit better, to be able to make a difference.”
Year 12 pupil Ollie said: “One of the people I speak to doesn’t have any visitors and every time I call they are so happy. Before this I couldn’t comprehend what it would be like to go through a week without seeing or speaking to anyone.”
Other pupil volunteers have found it fulfilling knowing they are supporting others. Aaqil, commented: “I’ve been making two calls a week and I’ve found it really interesting as I’ve learnt a lot about people. It is rewarding to know you are helping people.”
Megha, who concentrated on writing letters, added: “I’ve found it very personal and I like knowing the individual has read my letters and to have that connection.”
Source: BBC Radio Derby, Sally Pepper Show, Monday 22 March 2021.
Gardening in the Community
Other students have taken part in ‘Green Gardeners’, a project to assist allotment holders at West Park, Long Eaton who for a variety of reasons were unable to manage their plots. For the first few weeks of the 2020 autumn term students went to help these allotment holders; sadly, however, as the UK went into a second lockdown, students were unable to carry on with their work in shared community spaces.
The Trent Allotment project was formed in response to these restrictions. Students have been learning how to plan and manage a small allotment, with the support of a local expert / parent volunteer. Later in the year the students will take their produce to their elderly friends in the community who they have met through the Age UK Careline calls.
The importance of building life skills and learning beyond the curriculum
Ms Matthews reminds us of the importance of pursuits beyond the curriculum and how we can make the very best of co-curricular life: “We pride ourselves on the breadth of opportunities available to our students, and the huge variety of co-curricular activities which enable our young men and women to embrace new challenges, uncover new skills and develop new enthusiasms as part of a happy and healthy life.
With opportunities for interaction with others limited over the past 12 months, the co-curricular programme has never been more important. It has been vital that young people were fully engaged remotely – and face to face now that school is open again – with a broad range of activities in order to stay motivated, keep connected, develop resilience and maintain a healthy balance.
The value of taking on something a bit different – exploring new ideas; facing new challenges – cannot be underestimated.”