Good Morning, I hope you all have had a lovely summer break! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Molly Turpie and I’m in Upper Sixth. I’d like to welcome you to my presentation on the Round Square 50th Anniversary Challenge titled ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ and quite honestly the journey that made me me!
9 months ago, back in January, I stood up here and told you how much I LOVED my time at the Round Square International Conference in Switzerland, how I came back inspired and how we had an idea to mix generations in our community to make positive change. We split off into groups and asked for your help, from that day your feedback allowed us to form an action plan for our very first student led project. One thing that was really important to us was for everyone to have an equal voice and for everyone to be respected and listened to on the same level. For example, Mr Walton’s voice to be the same as Scarlett and Zara’s views in Year 6.
Like me, many of you probably watched Channel 4’s ‘Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds’ where ten preschoolers welcomed 11 pensioners into their classroom over an 8-week period. Anyone who hasn’t seen it go and watch it tonight, it’ll make you cry, laugh and most importantly want to make change. The programme focuses on the physical and mental health of the older people and every single one of them improved in both aspects after the experiment. I think the reason I love this programme so much is because I and every other person who threw themselves in our project have seen the changes and the feelings exchanged first hand throughout this last year and it’s a feeling of warmth that you can’t explain or every forget.
We strongly believe that the project has been a two-way partnership where we, as students have benefited massively from the older generation. As the project has gone on, we feel we have developed an ethos of volunteering across the whole school and we have spread the message to pupils about the power of a smile and the friendships it brings. The uptake has been really incredible, and at every event, pupils of all ages, alumni and staff have got involved. Through this project we realised that there is so much we can learn from one another; how important it is to actively listen and to be more emotionally aware. It is important that young people realise that we need to step away from the reliance and addiction of technology and appreciate this generation and all it can offer; before it’s too late.
I believe that this morning you had a session on the Round Square Discoveries, I can see a few nods! Although I could easily reflect on all 12 of the discoveries and where I found them within our project I would just like to talk about three, Inquisitiveness, Responsibility and Communication.
I would consider myself an inquisitive person and that really did help throughout our project. We tested the boundaries of social normalities by taking action on an issue that is unfortunately swept under the rug. For every 1 teenager in Lytham St Annes there are 3 pensioners and with a growing concern of loneliness, isolation and depression we sought action by asking and not assuming through a journey of discovery.
Responsibility is an easy one. In a community with an aging population it is my and your moral obligation to join society because if we don’t, who will? After you hear Bel’s speech you will realise how important giving back to the community is and how leading to serve can make such a difference.
Communication Skills were at the heart of the ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ project. Mr Golding, an ex teacher of this school gave our committee a workshop of ‘The Art of Listening’. We then put our skills into practice for our ‘Share Your Stories’ event in the library where we invited older members of the community to talk about their life and their experiences. We really were amazed at the conversations we were having. We were lucky to meet people who had worked in the War, people who had worked in huge brands such as Cadbury’s and several alumni of the school. One man had given up his career in banking to fulfil his life ambition to become an artist; ‘seize the day’ certainly was his motto. This casual chat over a cup of tea and a biscuit allowed for easy conversations and for bonds to be made across generations.
One of my favourite and most memorable things throughout this project was our intergenerational dance. Alongside ‘Just Group Friends’, a group which aims to combat loneliness and isolation in our local community, we formed a dance crew with a performance of ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ by Justin Timberlake. Performing this dance was a perfect way to express our feelings and to celebrate together a shared passion that we all have. As a ‘Dance Crew’ we proved it is never too late in life to do something you have always wanted to do. This was performed to an audience at Lytham Hall on Club Day and at the Summer Fair and Car Fest; it gave a real sense of achievement and built a sense of togetherness.
Our plans for the future consist of introducing a pen-pal system, where letters are written and exchanged between pupils and older members of our community on a regular basis. This will strengthen our links with the community and will allow us to communicate to the elderly that may find it difficult to leave their house for whatever reason. This will provide regular communication to those who may not have many visitors and hopefully create smiles to those who may be a little more in need of one. We hope the idea of eventually meeting their pen pal (one day) at a future event might be the catalyst to give them a little more purpose.
Personally, one of the best feelings about being part of this community project is the people that I have met. I’m lucky enough to be very close to all of my family including my grandparents but I know that isn’t true for everyone. Last week, I was invited to one of our partners, Just Good Friends Volunteer’s Afternoon, as soon as I walked into the room I saw their faces light up as they called me over to sit with them. That day, one of the members, said that joining with AKS has been one of the best things that’s happened as he has no family of his own.
Another member said that joining social events led by AKS and Just Good Friends allowed him to leave the house for the first time in four years and it was also the first time he smiled in all that time.
The phrase ‘Success and Value’ is used around school a lot and I think this community project fits this perfectly. It has been a great success and to me, other pupils and staff, and the older people involved it really has been an invaluable experience to be part of. We have been updating Round Square of our progress through a thriving social media with tweets reaching up to 1385 people, as well as sending formal updates every few months just like the ones on your tables which contain everything you could possibly want to know.
I would also like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you as many of you sitting here have been involved in various events such as Club Day, the Movie Afternoon, the Grandparents Afternoon, Bingo, the Summer Fair, the Parkinson’s Café, and many, many more and you can officially call yourself an agent of change. I’d like to give a special thank you to Mr Crouch, Mrs Marland and Mr McKeown for putting up with my constant questions, emails and big ideas as well as providing endless support with facilitating meetings, being a leader and working as an efficient team.
One last thing…
I have a glow inside me and I know exactly what it is; it’s the feeling of giving back to our community and it’s the feeling of being genuinely happy. If you take anything from this speech, let it be that the experience of giving back will allow you to receive something better than any gift, present or amount of money.