Boys and staff from Tonbridge School are keeping others very much in mind in the run-up to the festive period, with their wide programme of voluntary activities showing that ‘Christmas is the time for giving’.
The annual Christmas Toy Appeal was larger than ever this year, with thousands of toys, books and games donated to families in need from the local area. Some families had also requested help with providing school uniform and shoes, with the parent community kindly raising more than £1,100 for this cause.
The School has donated more than £1,800 worth of Tonbridge Town Team vouchers, to be given as a Christmas gift to those most in need. These vouchers can only be spent in local, independent shops, so this scheme both supports families who are struggling and boosts the town’s High Street and economy.
Working with West Kent Mind, the mental health charity, the School has arranged for 15 Christmas Hampers to be donated to individuals who are finding isolation and current circumstances particularly challenging.
More than a hundred CD and DVDs of the School’s Service of Remembrance and its Carol Service have been distributed to local care homes.
A total of 33 Third Year boys completed their ‘virtual’ 2,000 miles run and cycle from Tonbridge to Lesvos in Greece, the location of Europe’s largest refugee camp before it was destroyed by fire in September. Boys raised more than £2,200 for the charity RefugEase, and also spent time learning about the complex issues behind the global refugee crisis.
The boys recently ran in the pouring rain on the School’s athletics track to complete their final collective 86 miles, which helped them to beat their fundraising target. Some have also been helping out at the RefugEase warehouse in Tonbridge High Street, sorting and packing donations for deliveries.
In recent weeks the School has also been organising donations for Care4Calais, a charity which is providing coats and other clothing for refugees in northern France and elsewhere in Europe. This appeal generated a large number of donations from parents, friends, staff and the wider School community.
James Fisher, the School’s Deputy Head Co-curricular, said “This year, more than any other, we have been acutely aware of the needs of our local community, and we’ve had a strong desire to do what we could to support one another.
“We have been impressed by our boys stepping up to help – as well as the large, whole-school events, we have seen many boys coming up with their own ideas for smaller projects which, collectively, have made a huge difference to the lives of so many, both locally and overseas.”
Other initiatives included:
* Boys writing letters to the senior citizens at Derwent Day Care Centre. The boys even created an online quiz for their friends at Derwent and are looking forward to resuming their regular Wednesday visits to the centre next year.
* All First Years visiting the Sustain Food Bank, based in the Baptist Church in north Tonbridge, to hear about its vital work in the community.
* Sixth Form boys and School staff working with the Sustain Food Bank every week this term, helping to prepare food packages. The School has also made regular donations to Sustain.
* Boys conducting a litter pick around the Tonbridge Angels Football Stadium and nearby park.
* Sixth Formers and a team of School sports staff supporting the ‘Movember’ appeal, raising more than £3,700 between them for men’s mental and physical health charities.
* More than £5,400 being raised in this year’s Pink Day, the School’s annual event to remember and support those affected by cancer.
* Tonbridge boys meeting via Zoom with students from the Child Action Lanka base in Kilinochchi, Sri Lanka, and exchanging letters in order to share ideas and support each other’s studies.
* Boys donating their own money to ensure that the Child Action Lanka students receive new book bags and stationery for the start of their 2021 academic year, and posting Christmas cards to accompany these gifts.
Looking back over the past year of fundraising and voluntary activities, James Priory, Tonbridge’s Headmaster, added: “The boys have shown a great deal of heart in reaching out to support local and national charities. I look forward to seeing the various, innovative ways in which we can continue to work with communities and partners, both here and much further afield, in 2021.”
* In 2020 Tonbridge was one of just six schools across the country to be named as a Finalist in the Independent Schools of the Year Awards for its ‘Community Outreach’ programme of activities.
Pictured above: Boys helping in the RefugEase warehouse in Tonbridge.
Pictured below, from top:
Christmas Hampers, on their way to West Kent Mind;
The final laps in 'Running for RefugEase';
Donations to this year's Toy Appeal;
Live link-ups with the Child Action Lanka base;
CDs and DVDs for day centres and care homes;
Pink Day at the School;
Tonbridge was a Finalist in Independent Schools of the Year.
- Social Responsibility