After being appointed deputy head girl at Rodborough, I was determined to do something positive – not just for our school, but for other young people. We decided to raise awareness of child poverty through a fundraising campaign for the Child Poverty Action Group. Often hardships like poverty can feel quite far from home, but it is important that we do all we can to give back to those less fortunate than ourselves.
From a young age, I have found it difficult to come to terms with inequality and the idea that some could be treated more unfairly than others. Whilst learning about the experiences of my family, whose backgrounds are diverse, I have come to realise that not everyone has an equal chance of success. From a very early age, our lives will be affected by the income or class of our family. This will affect not only what we have, but also our aspirations, ability to achieve, access to education and healthcare, integration into communities, and self-worth. I felt that Rodborough could make a difference and wanted our school to raise awareness and money for a worthy cause, so that students better understood the struggles which some of our generation face every day.
There are many deserving causes, but the Child Poverty Action Group seemed the perfect charity to work with. Sometimes hardship can feel far from home, but just under one in three children live in poverty in the UK. Campaigning for CPAG would highlight the importance of equality. I hoped that it might even inspire some students to look more at what they could do to improve the lives of others.
I put together a presentation on the impact that living in poverty has on children, what CPAG does, and what Rodborough could do to help. I presented this to the senior six – the elected ambassadors for our school – and the headmaster before taking it to the student council. It was unanimous that the Child Poverty Action Group would be our school’s chosen charity for 2016/17.
As a senior six we immediately began planning and organising events. We decided that our fundraising campaign should begin with student led assemblies in order to have the greatest impact on our peers. We worked with the student council to plan and rehearse our assembly until we were ready to present it to the whole school. The assemblies raised awareness of an issue which many had not even realised existed. Students learned that the lives of some young people are unbelievably challenging. I think they found it easier to empathise with the disadvantages of poverty that we talked about, because the focus was on children and young people who they could relate to.
Students were particularly shocked by statistics showing the disparity between the lifestyle of most of their peers and those who are less fortunate. For example, by the age of three, poorer children are estimated to be, on average, nine months behind children from more wealthy backgrounds. I think it was important for students to be educated about this inequality. For some, it was an opportunity to recognise, and be grateful for, their own privilege and understand how this impacted their lives. Additionally, it opened students’ eyes to the impact of child poverty which is not exclusive to ‘third-world’ countries, but is on our own doorstep. After this realisation, Rodborough’s students were keen to raise money and awareness for this worthy cause. Our message was that we should always look out for those less fortunate than ourselves and try to give back to society. This was particularly powerful because it came from the students – we were confident in our ideas and made our passion for the cause of child poverty clear.
We encouraged everyone to get involved with our fundraising. The school held a ‘mufti’ day when everyone made a donation to wear their own clothes to school. The main fundraising event was our Poetry for Poverty recital. This evening comprised 16 impressive performances from students and teachers in a variety of styles. Awards were given, and a local poet, Geoff Allnutt, gave a guest performance. We sold refreshments and held a raffle on the night to boost our funds. The poetry recital was an inspiring evening thanks to all those who organised and participated, as performers, sponsors of the raffle or part of the audience.
Overall, our fundraising was a huge success and we raised just over £1,700 for CPAG. However, raising this money was secondary to increasing awareness of a very important issue. I am most proud of the fact that we encouraged students to make a positive contribution to improve the lives of other young people facing challenging circumstances right here in the UK. I would like to thank all those who helped us with this campaign and the Child Poverty Action Group for being so supportive of our fundraising.
This blog first appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of Poverty.