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In difficult times, it helps to think about others

Head of Charities and Community Engagement Hannah Fearnley explains the importance of charitable and outreach projects at the School, and explores how pupils are encouraged to think about social responsibility and act sensitively to the struggles that so many people are facing, now more than ever…

Humanity and a sense of community are at the heart of what we do at Bryanston. This term, as we deal with the challenges of Covid-19, looking after each other, both within our school and also within our local community, has become more important than ever.

As Head of Charities and Community Engagement, I have had the opportunity to work with pupils to make a difference and we’ve established the first ever pupil committee for charities and outreach projects at Bryanston. This is made up of representatives from each boarding house and we have met weekly to discuss what we can do to raise awareness and to support those in need. Our latest project in our continued support for the Blandford Food Bank was the very successful ‘Recipe Bag’ initiative. The aim was to involve the whole school community, pupils and staff, in compiling individual bags containing all the required ingredients for a meal for a family of four. Mini designed a recipe card and we attached these to brown paper bags.

Bubble by bubble, house by house, we compiled 71 bags of spaghetti bolognese ingredients with a surplus of dried goods on top. This project enabled our Charity Committee representatives to raise awareness about poverty amongst pupils in house assemblies and in a school assembly alongside the Chaplain. This coincided with Harvest Festival and the food bags were then delivered to church by our A2 pupils for the Harvest Service before being transported to the Food Bank in Blandford.

In a socially distanced Covid world, unity of purpose, togetherness and a sense of belonging have never been more important. Our first fundraising project this term focused on three local children’s charities: Julia’s House, Teddy 20 and MOSAIC. The selfless work of these charities was explained to pupils in assembly by Benson, Naomi and Hugo. To raise money for these charities, we brought the whole school together in a challenge to walk 10k through the glorious Dorset countryside around Bryanston. Fortunately, we had a sunny day and pupils set off towards Durweston after a hearty brunch with some pupils even running it! Thanks to the generosity of parents we managed to raise almost £9,000 which has made a huge difference to the care provided to hundreds of children locally. Not only did this challenge provide money to charities who are really struggling at the moment, but it enabled us as a school community to be together and to share in a common purpose.

Our final project this term will be an online Christmas Fair to raise money for Nepal. Our connections with Nepal go back many years and in 2018, 17 pupils and four teachers undertook an expedition to Nepal, and spent a week working alongside Douglas Maclagan of Right4Children – as well as working with trainee chefs at the FAB Cooking and Hospitality School, and with children who have been helped by the R4C project in Pokhara. They also played sports with the local pupils at Machapucchre School and even taught some lessons. This term would normally see the Main Hall (and beyond) taken over by each boarding house selling their wares; secondhand clothes from Harthan, bric-a-brac from Cranborne, the Silent Auction from Beechwood and so it goes on… Alas, we will not be able to gather and revel in initiatives like the roaming serenaders, the pop-up photo booth and the face paint stall. However, the pupils will still collaborate in their own creative ways to provide a selection of goods for Christmas. The end result will be an online sale on a site called jumblebee instead of the hustle and bustle of Main Hall, but the process of pupils coming together with a common goal will be the same. Greenleaves girls are already knitting Bryanston-coloured blue and gold scarves, and other houses are planning scented candles, colourful Christmas cards and loads of other festive favourites!

At all times, but especially in this troubling and turbulent year, it is important that our pupils are sensitive to the struggles that so many people face and realise that we all have a moral responsibility to provide help in any way we can. We believe that charitable and outreach activities should always be central to the education we offer at Bryanston – we hope to encourage all our pupils to become thoughtful, humane and empathetic young adults who recognise that personal ambition should always be allied with a strong and lasting sense of social responsibility.