You Reap What You Sow by Phillip Evitt
Before Sunday’s packed Harvest Festival Service in Highfield’s Chapel, we received an abundance of produce, most generously donated by parents, to decorate the Chapel and then pass on to the Peak Centre, Liphook’s Day Care Centre for the elderly. It was most gratefully received, for the Centre relies entirely on self-financing and donations in order to help support, provide companionship and feed so many in this area who would otherwise miss out on hot meals and company. It is distressing that in an area as outwardly affluent as ours this should be necessary. It provides a pertinent reminder of our duty as schools to encourage our children to ‘look out’ and to consider how they might best help others less fortunate.
For centuries, Harvest Festival has provided the opportunity to reflect on all we have to be thankful for and to consider how we can share our good fortune with others. Of course, we don’t just need Harvest Festival to act as a spur, but it provides an invaluable way of reacquainting our children with the importance of service and consideration to others. It came as no surprise when I read recently that research has shown that the most successful schools are those, that among other things, pursue a strong outreach programme with their local communities. It was heartening to reflect on the strong relationships the Highfield and Brookham community has established over the years through our Highreach programme with the Peak Centre and two local special schools for children with moderate to severe disabilities, Hollywater School in Bordon and Stepping Stones School in Hindhead.
Every Thursday afternoon for almost ten years as part of Highfield’s ‘Keys’ programme, children in Years 7 and 8 have been driven to these locations by parent volunteers. At the Peak Centre, they have served tea, chatted, listened, sung, and forged strong friendships with the elderly and the Centre’s team of volunteers. At Hollywater and Stepping Stones they have done much in collaboration with and to support the children and have assisted the staff in a number of ways. The benefits have been mutual and profound and reciprocal visits have been arranged. Above all, many of our children have discovered the pleasure of how simply engaging with others outside their normal friendships groups is profoundly enriching and enjoyable. It has also developed a sense of responsibility to others that doesn’t end when they move on and this has been particularly evident in the number of former Highfieldians and beneficiaries of the Highreach programme who as 17 to 21 year olds have in the past two years jumped at the opportunity to act as volunteers at the residential Highreach Holiday for children with moderate to severe disabilities that we now run in early August.
It was truly heart-warming to visit the holiday on its final day last year, not only to be told by one of the holiday children that it had been ’the best week of their lives’ but also to talk to the OH volunteers who shared exactly the same sentiments. Yes, it had been immensely challenging and demanding and stretched them in ways that they didn’t imagine they would overcome, but it had been immensely rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable. To me, it was further evidence of a simple truth we often forget, or don’t acknowledge enough and this is the sheer pleasure we derive from helping others and seeing others benefit from it. If one needed another reason for ‘doing good’ beyond knowing that it really is the right thing to do, it’s worth noting that much recent medical research has confirmed what we probably all know, doing good to others is actually good for us physically.
Thank you to all those of you who gave so generously to our Harvest Festival, to all our parent volunteers who give their time so generously to support Highreach, to all our Year 7 and 8 pupils who have and will continue to support all those at the Peak Centre, Hollywater and Stepping Stones Schools and to all the OH volunteers, other volunteers and my colleagues who have worked at the Highreach Holiday these past two years. Your labours have brought their own rich harvest to so many.
Watch this year's inspirational Highreach Holiday video. Password: BringBackHighreach