Charity Begins at Home
Teaching children to care for others and to shape the world around them is one of the core values and ambitions at Belhaven Hill School. The children's power to bring about positive change as young, optimistic bringers of hope is infinite.
I received a letter today from the husband of a resident in Lammermuir Care Home, where the Choristers recently sang carols. In it, he described his wife’s linguistic ability prior to her battle with Parkinson’s Disease. At the end, he said the following:
‘This is not a letter in praise of my wife but rather of your choristers (and choirmaster) and to make the point that singing for the elderly and disabled is so worth doing and that a slumped, apparently unresponsive, old person in a wheelchair may well be your most attentive and appreciative listener.’
Recently, one sunny Sunday morning, we organised a trip to the Dunbar Parish churchyard to help maintain the Anderson family memorial. The Anderson family once owned Winterfield House, the main building at Belhaven. Our team of volunteers did a fantastic job, only to find that they had spent two hours tidying up the wrong memorial!
A group of Form 1 volunteers went to St. Anne’s Church to polish the brass in advance of their Christmas services. Learning about the different treasures of the church, including the fascinating history behind the crucifix that they have from 1919, made entirely of the brass from First World War cartridge cases, as well as the method of cleaning silver and brass so that it gleams, made it an incredibly valuable hour for the children, as well as providing a useful service for the St. Anne’s congregation. It certainly all looked very sparkly when we were there for the carol service on Monday night!
That service featured readings given by representatives of the local Rotary Club, foodbank, Legion, Dunbar Harbour and the RNLI, thus continuing a link that we had established with the RNLI earlier in the term when our Highland Games raised £1542, enough to buy a new life-saving uniform for one of the volunteer crew members. Listening to talks from the RNLI and the local Fire crew this term has emphasised the bravery of the crews and also their reliance on donations in a world still recovering from the significant blow to charities suffered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Also affected by the pandemic have been those suffering from cancer and we chose to support Children with Cancer UK due to the school’s connection with the Peek family. David and Jacquie’s grandson, Dax, died of leukaemia aged just 2. We have planted a monkey puzzle tree in the border in his memory and raised funds for the charity this Christmas with our Christmas jumper day and also courtesy of the Pre-Prep’s Christmas decoration project in conjunction with the brilliant ‘Label Lady’.
The loss of almost two years of education proved to the world the value of real-life experience in school amongst friends with trusted teachers for our children. The planting of the Centenary woodland, ‘Eagle Wood’, was inspired by the vision for the children of all of the many schools and nurseries of Dunbar to be able to enjoy exploring the outdoors together. Over time, the saplings planted by each Belhaven child currently in the school will grow to form a new, protected natural habitat for local flora and fauna as well as providing a beautiful location for camping and exploration for the children, who are already active in supporting local wildlife – Elita’s bake sale in aid of the local population of curlews was a great example of the difference that they can make when they take an idea forwards.
The war in the Ukraine and the fate of the refugees has also informed our charitable ventures this term and we were delighted to be able to donate 47 shoeboxes to add to those also collected by Loretto and The Compass to send into Edinburgh. Head of the PTFA Sabby Bucher forwarded me an email of thanks from the organiser:
‘I was stunned when you turned up with 47 boxes from Belhaven! What a kind and generous school community. Please pass on our heartfelt thanks to parents and all those involved.’
There was also a letter from Cammy Day, Council Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council:
'The shoeboxes of lovely gifts that you have prepared and shared through your school will bring joy for our new Ukrainian friends who will, understandably, be finding their first Christmas in Scotland difficult whilst they are away from their home and their loved ones. On behalf of the Edinburgh Ukraine Response partners, I’d like to thank each one of you for your generosity and kindness. You’ve made a huge difference.'
Next term, we welcome Dunbar United Football Club as they need an indoor facility for their P1 and P2 groups on Saturday mornings. I will meet with Janice Lennon of ‘Relay for Life’ as we look to support their charity once again this year. West Barns Primary School will be coming to play matches, I hope, to build on the success of matches against Dunbar Grammar this term.
Learning to think about how we help others, rather than worrying about how we advance our own cause, is surely one of the best remedies for the anxiety that affects so many today. Building the framework to support the ambition of the children to be active in their local environment is one of our key responsibilities as a school and it will be a major focus in our Centenary year.
Read more about our Charitable Activities