And, so it began…

In October Sadie and I caught the Round Square bug! We were lucky enough to be chosen to attend the Round Square International Conference at Aiglon College in Switzerland. The conference was unbelievable. We met students and speakers from all around the world and 100 different countries, each of whom were driven by his or her individual passion. We left inspired. We left as agents of change.

We met people who had issues that we couldn’t even begin to imagine. I stayed in a room with a 16 year old girl named Alseé, from Jordan. One night we stayed up chatting about just how different our lives are. In her country they suffer a lot from the conflict in Syria, and live in constant fear of threats from the Islamic state; to hear this was very distressing. She opened my eyes to the real hardships of the wider world and made me see just how lucky I am. We spoke about her opinions of the West trying to help but it made me realise we do not know it all. Meeting this girl gave me a first-hand experience of the shocking conflict in Syria; it was a moment I will never forget.

Within the first few days we realised that Round Square would be a fantastic opportunity for AKS and it envisions everything that we already do perfectly; Round Square is all about making positive change and being the best person you could possibly be. To me, Round Square is not just an extra club, Round Square develops your character. It can give you an outlet to go forward with your passion, gain leadership in a way that you have never experienced before and working with other year groups and teachers on an even playing field.

Whilst we were in Switzerland, King Constantine of Greece launched the 50th Anniversary Challenge with an aim to demonstrate the meaningful effect of positive actions in our community. The theme of the conference was “the journey that makes us”. And, since then our journey has not stopped. The entire way back we talked non-stop (to the delight of Miss Horrocks and Mr McKeown!) about what we as a school could do, whom we could help and how we could make a difference. After going through the problems facing our community, we had the idea to help combat loneliness and isolation through friendship especially with the older generation. However, we were desperate to share what we had learnt at the conference, share our enthusiasm and share our dream.

Along with around 20 other Sixth From students and a group of Year 6s we have formed a Round Square Working Party. We meet every week and discuss how to go forth with our Round Square project. Our group is completely student led, with a student chair and student secretary. We’ve all learnt the correct protocol of a meeting and now the sessions run very smoothly! We do invite teachers to our meeting but they remain student led, where everyone is equal.

After a lot of thought and ideas, we now have a name for our project – Bring Me Sunshine. Yes, as in the Morecambe and Wise song! Our idea to bridge the generation gap will benefit not only our community but also our students massively. Our main aim is to form a meaningful friendship with the older generation, to share skills and make the elderly feel valued, helpful and involved within the community. Our committee is super busy, with lots going on! Every week we discuss how we can make a difference and turn loneliness into happiness for everyone.

This month, Bring Me Sunshine is hosting a Careers Event, an afternoon of games; Share Your Stories Event, a Wild Western Musical and a movie showing of Patch Adams! The whole school is invited to attend these events and we would love more people to make amazing friendships like the ones that some students have already made. We are also about to launch a Pen-Pals letter system between the older and younger generations, to make even more connections.

Although our plan has swerved direction rather a lot since we began in November, our strength in numbers is only increasing!! We have made some fantastic connections with people in our community including Bev Sykes from Just Good Friends, Mr Golding from The Spiritual Care of the Older Generation, Mr O’Donnell from Lancashire Memories and many other care homes.

We have also led a session at the staff training day, where students each had a group of teachers to have a discussion with regarding ideas from our project. For the rest of the pupils, we led multiple assemblies explaining what’s going on with the project and how everyone can become involved. Even the parents are involved! In February, we hosted a parent information evening and a ‘question and answer’ session for every parent in the school. The evening went really well and we managed to spread our Round Square cheer! The more people involved the better!

Our Bring Me Sunshine project is growing and growing, so watch this space! If you know anyone who would like to be involved with our events or someone who can provide us with new expertise, then please contact us! We are on a learning journey, each week, each individual we speak to, each idea pushes us closer to helping bridge the generation gap and we’d love to learn more, learn new ways to make a real difference.

Molly Turpie and Sadie Drinkwater