Flora Vidal from St Saviour's Lambeth talks about Young Ambassadors
St Saviour's Church of England Primary School is a state school in Lambeth for 4 to 11-year-olds. We are quite small in comparison to other London schools as we have 192 pupils - both boys and girls.
I am a Higher Level Teaching Assistant and support the School Council. We have one girl and one boy from each year - Reception to Year 6. They represent the views of all pupils on how to improve their school and support the local community. In 2013, we were asked to be one of the first schools to join the Team London Young Ambassadors pilot. The whole school thought this was a fantastic way to get children more involved in volunteering and we proposed the idea to them during a School Council meeting. They all jumped at the chance and were ready for the challenge!
The programme started with an assembly. The children heard from a speaker who spoke about the importance of volunteering and social action. He really inspired them with examples of other children who are making a difference in their schools. He showed them how easy it was for them to focus on issues they care about and change things for the better.
After the assembly, the children participated in a planning workshop. The speaker encouraged them to think about anything that represented a problem in the local community. They were then shown how to research, build a team, run a project and ideas for how to run campaigns and fundraise. They also talked a lot about common pitfalls and how to avoid them. The children immediately voted to focus on a volunteer gardening project, working with elderly residents in a local residential home.
Team London Young Ambassadors at St Saviour's has grown from strength-to-strength. Since the pilot they have supported and helped thousands of people, both locally and globally. These include raising funds and donating items for orphan children and families caught up in the war in Syria, Care International, a local refuge centre and Red Nose Day.
Last year the School Council pitched to Unilever for a £1,000 grant to create street survival kits for the homeless who use Brixton Soup Kitchen. The grant helped them to create 'St Saviour’s Street Survival Kits’ which contained a hat, scarf, gloves, socks, toiletries, water bottle, help cards, joke cards and prayer cards.
In October, they were thrilled to be presented with a Team London Award as the winners of the Unilever award for volunteering. This year we were awarded another grant to create 'St Saviour's Refugee Packs’ for service users at Southwark Day Centre for Asylum Seekers
The children have also taken part in Young Leaders and joined up with other schools in Lambeth to form a youth panel. They were so inspired by the kindness project created by Broadford Primary School that they decided to go ahead with a similar idea. With the help of a small budget, they made cards to hand out with chocolates and flowers to show their appreciation for their teachers, volunteers, and friends. It was very moving to see all of the children being so kind to each other at school.
Last year two Year 6 children and I were asked to go to City Hall for an interview with the Department for Education. The Team London Young Ambassadors programme had been shortlisted for the DfE's 'Character Award'. We were thrilled to be given the chance to show how passionate we are about the programme and the children talked about their involvement in the project with such maturity and understanding of the issues and hardships faced by people all around the world.
Young Ambassadors has empowered our School Council and Young Leaders and given them the knowledge and opportunities to make a real difference in our community. Also, the WE Schools Coordinator and our very own Team London Ambassador, have been so supportive by giving us calendars full of campaign ideas and resources like WE Are Silent and We Scare Hunger kits. They have also attended our school to support the children on their many different projects.
Everyone at the school, including the parents and carers, can see the positive impact that the programme has had on the children. They feel much more part of the community now and know that they have a voice and can make a difference. It's so inspiring for them! They are so much more aware of local issues and care more about what's happening around them in school and in Lambeth.
In the past four years, St Saviour’s has donated over 2,000 items of toiletries, food and clothing to the community and raised over £7000 for various charities. We wouldn't have been able to do this without the help of Team London Young Ambassadors and the support from received from everyone involved.
Team London Young Ambassadors
Team London Young Ambassadors is the Mayor’s volunteering is programme which helps primary and secondary pupils to start their own volunteering projects. It is run in partnership with WE, as part of their WE Schools programme and is sponsored by Unilever.