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29 October, 2007

Giving Nation Schools championed at Treasury

Young people from eight schools from around the UK came together this morning at the Citizenship Foundation’s Giving Nation Awards for Charitable Action. Held at the Treasury, the awards celebrated young people’s achievements for charities and their local communities.

Young people at the Giving Nation Awards ceremoney 2007.
Award winners outside the Treasury
Presenting the students with their awards Phil Hope, Minister for the Third Sector said “I congratulate all the winners of the Giving Nation awards. Each of the award winners has shown what a huge difference young people can make by taking an active role in society. At Felpham Community College, the overall winner, charitable activity is a core part of school life that really engages the students with action to improve the lives of others. They are a great example and I’m sure their students will be an inspiration to other young people.

“I want to see more opportunities for young people to get involved with voluntary and charity work. Not only for the benefit of the many people they can help but also for the considerable benefits they get themselves, like learning new skills and a greater understanding of different lives and cultures.”

To enter the awards, schools across the UK wrote diaries on the G-Nation website describing their charitable activity, volunteering and campaigning activities throughout the school year and the impact it had locally and internationally.

Participating schools took part in a wide range of activities for charity, from sponsored head shaving, leg waxing, dog walking, sky diving, to sleeping out for the local homeless charity. Schools also campaigned for a number of causes, from fair trade, child poverty, the global campaign for education, health care for children in Africa to campaigning for more women in Parliament… as a Plumstead Manor student explains:

“We found out that only about 20% of MPs in Parliament are women, which is rubbish! Also only a tiny number are Ethnic Minorities. We wrote letters to Gordon Brown asking him to do something to encourage more women and ethnic minorities to become MPs. Also Jessica started a petition on the 10 Downing Street website. Hopefully Gordon Brown has our letters and will think about having more women and ethnic minorities in Parliament. Anyway hopefully some girls from Plumstead Manor will become MPs and push up the numbers!!!”

One of the Students from Rushcliffe School in Nottingham spoke about what they had learned from taking part in the awards scheme, “We have supported local as well as national charities. Giving up our time for others has helped us to realise that we can make a big difference. It has created a caring atmosphere where we as pupils realise that we can have an impact on the world around us."

Folkestone Academy students agreed, saying “We all feel really proud of the work we have taken part in this year. We have all realised that we can all make a difference no matter how small and the fact that this has a positive effect on the school and community."

St Joseph’s students spoke about the impact getting involved in charity action has had on the whole school, “Charity work at our school has been very important. We have become a Fair-Trade school giving has also brought popularity to the school. It has made a lot of us aware of what is going on in the world’s markets and other countries. We have learned about the illnesses some people suffer and what can be done to help them. We have learned about some political things like child soldiers and we have had a lot of fun.”

Queen Elizabeth’s School in Cumbria really enjoyed the challenge. “We have been at the centre of all the fun and activities in school” they said, ”think of a madcap scheme and we were involved. We have raised the profile of charity action and good citizenship. Getting lots of people involved was something important to us because its communities which can make the difference in peoples lives. We raised money and awareness of a variety of causes which support children and young people.”

The Grove School in Shropshire supports charities on a regular basis, describing their charity action, they said, “The charity and community action at our school helps more people in the school get involved in making a difference. Each year we hold fundraising events for Red Nose Day, Children in Need, MacMillan Cancer Support, and the Poppy Appeal but mainly we fundraise for Vukani Primary School in South Africa. Students, staff and members of the community all got involved this year with our fundraising and made a huge difference to the lives of people we were helping in Vukani.”

Last year’s winners, Torry Academy picked up the regional award for Scotland, teacher Alan Miller spoke about this year’s charity action. “The pupil excitement about events has definitely increased and getting involved in fundraising no longer seems to be ’uncool’. Pupils have found something that they can throw themselves into and are not only able achieve amazing things, they see their achievements and events they have organised come to life in front of them.”

Felpham Community College in Sussex picked up the top prize, a trip to Kenya to experience the work of international development charity Sightsavers International. The Judges commended the scale and dedication the Felpham charity team had put into their charity action over the last year, “Everyone at Felpham Community College is involved in making a difference” they said, “every year, every student in every class votes on which charities the school should support and is involved in organising, taking part and raising awareness for the school’s actions to make a difference. From sponsored dog walks and sponging teachers in the stocks, to art auctions to an entire week dedicated to charity action Felpham are an excellent example of a giving school.”

Next February, the team from Felpham will travel through Kenya experiencing how the work of charities like Sightsavers can have a truly life-changing impact on individuals and communities. They will also meet and work with Kenyan school children on a cross-cultural art project.

Speaking about the prize, Jo Mitchell, Schools Development Manager from Sightsavers International said “This visit is an amazing opportunity for the students of Felpham to learn about the lives of their peers in rural and urban Kenya. Visiting local projects and schools will also demonstrate how the work of international charities, like Sightsavers, is visibly improving people's lives. This valuable experience should help the student's in planning and developing campaigns to support their favourite charities in the future."

The Giving Nation schools programme promotes and supports young people’s learning and engagement in charitable activity, volunteering and campaigning through free school resources, an online awards programme and a web community at www.g-nation.co.uk

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