Tudor in Four Continents is a contribution we make to community and world service. Projects in India and South Africa are well established, and we have recently added projects in South America and the UK.
Two of our Y12 students, Amelia and Thea, talk about their experiences in Johannesburg and Bolton.
Thea sees Tudor in Four Continents as “a way of discovering the world and as a way to help to change it for the better through charity work and volunteering.”
Looking at the projects on offer, she said “I really wanted to go to Guatemala because it looked amazing and, when first told that there was an option to go to Bolton, I thought ‘I’m not going there when there’s an opportunity to abroad! Why would you when there are other, more exotic locations on offer?’
“But I applied to work in Bolton because, thinking about it, it would be more hard-hitting for the group. We know that challenging conditions exist in other countries but these conditions are less visible to us in own country. The Bolton project offered us something much closer to actual work experience and I felt that it would be challenging”.
In contrast, Amelia applied to volunteer at the Sparrow School in Johannesburg, saying that, “It would be a wonderful experience to give something back. I had never been somewhere like Africa before and its history has always been of interest to me.
“I like the on-going connections between our schools – we go out to Sparrow School and they come here and we get to see them again. They performed at a fund-raising concert at the Royal Hospital Chelsea and we assisted with the event by waitressing. They also visited our school and spent some time experiencing British life.”
The girls visiting Johannesburg started with some cultural orientation, visiting the Nelson Mandela Museum and learning about the country’s history. During their stay, they lived with South African host families, travelling to the Sparrow School each day to work. They volunteered with a range of different year groups.
“Sometimes we were running art lessons, sometimes we were just doing really practical things like covering their textbooks to help them last longer. We repainted 2 classrooms and painted a Gruffalo mural for the school.”
The girls in Bolton spent the week helping at the Lads & Girls Club. Thea observed that “The club is busy with young people who had nothing to do and who had few resources at home. During the week we helped the club’s regular staff by planning events like a Halloween party and by spending time with the children. The club runs a mentoring programme. Trained mentors provide 1:1 support to children who have nowhere else to go and who are struggling with their family lives. I went with a mentor to visit an 11 year old girl whose mother was unwell and the family was struggling to feed itself. The girl was very anxious. Another girl needed some respite and distance from her home environment. We also helped with really practical things like setting up for and cleaning up after lunch.
“Although were only at the club for a short while, we genuinely helped. The feedback we got from the club staff was that our presence was valued, showing that we contributed something positive. I know that there’s a saying ‘every little helps’ – because it does.
“The club has a handful of workers and they are all older than us, so it was nice for the children attending the club to have contact with people closer to their own age. We also provided the club with a fresh perspective on its work and were able to offer them some new ideas. The experience was eye-opening, really changing our views about poverty, our own country and other people’s lives.
“A big thing that I learnt was everyone is the same. These young people were exactly the same as us. They had just happened to have been born in a different place and in a different situation. Some of the things that happen to children in the UK are difficult to believe – they sound like things from TV dramas. I had never absorbed the idea of abuse and neglect until I visited the club. Everyone knows that there is more poverty in the third world, so to see it in England makes you look differently.”
Amelia was also struck by her experiences in Johannesburg: “I had never experienced a completely different life and we were able to see how different life was in South Africa was. It taught me to take nothing for granted and made me want to do more volunteer work. If I have a gap year, I will definitely be going back to the same school, together with one of my friends who also visited. Working overseas for such a short amount of time can only give you a taster of what it is like, but it has made me want to go back and help again. The painting and the new books we bought means that we left a tangible legacy behind, even on such a fleeting visit.”
Reflecting on the experience, Thea comments that: “it is a really great programme because it is a learning experience and helps other people and gets us out into the community – to go and see new places. Work experience may well be sitting down at a computer but this is practical – it improves social skills, makes you look at the work differently, travel, explore and give to another community.