Place2Be: Helping within the Community
6th December, 2017
Merchiston is involved in the Place2Be programme. We have worked for a number of years with Place2Be and the boys gain a great deal as well as offering a great deal to the young children with whom they work. You can learn more about the charity here.
Please read some of our pupils’ comments below:
So far, my Koinonia experience has been really rewarding and beneficial. Every Wednesday this term, Ms Cunningham has driven our 8-person strong team fifteen minutes down the road to Longstone Primary School for our mentoring session with our ‘buddies’, to interact with them through games and team buildings exercises. We often start the session with board games, when we play against the competitive ‘buddies’. Whilst we are doing this, we talk about what’s happening in each other’s lives and any exciting things coming up. Obviously, at first, the children were timid as we were simply strangers to them, but after the games and interaction, they were able to be themselves and open up and act as most Primary 6/7s do – with a lot of mischief and laughter. Now it is our fifth week of going and we are still finding out new things and interests, and just talk to them in a friendly but nurturing way. This is effective as they don’t see us as teachers trying to influence them but as kids like them so they look up to us and they often try replicate our actions even in simple things which we find rather funny. We share interests with them too, such as the love of football, so our conversations often tangent off on the weekend’s games. It is beneficial for both us and our buddies as we learn when to listen and how to communicate with another age group we wouldn’t often have the chance to talk to. Also, to take that role of being the mentor and being on the other side of the table and actually be the teacher is very different and challenging, but nevertheless very rewarding.
For Koinonia this year, we go to a small primary school called Balgreen every Wednesday for activities. We mentor young children who need some extra help for a wide variety of different reasons. These sessions last for about an hour every Wednesday. In the first half hour, we play board games or card games with our mentee and gain an opportunity to talk to them one to one. We get to know them more in this situation and then in the second half we go outside and play football or tig on the astro. We also have a Christmas party with them at Merchiston in the last week of term. I think it really helps them to get the extra support and it is also fun for us as mentors as we learn to put others before ourselves.
The Koinonia programme, involving boys from across the Lower Sixth year group, has been a privilege to take part in and it has been truly incredible to watch the impact not just upon the children, elderly and anyone else in the programme, but on the boys of Merchiston as well.
At the start, there was a large amount of trepidation and uncertainty as we were placed in unfamiliar surroundings and tasked with duties that to many of us seemed alien to say the least, with the thought at the foremost in our minds, “What do we do now?”, but the answers were quickly found. I have had the opportunity to take part in the ‘buddy’ system, as it is dubbed at Balgreen Primary, in which eight of us, including myself, have been paired with a child aged 9-10: my ‘buddy’ is named Adam. Evidently, we were not the only ones feeling nervous, as many of the children, Adam included, had little idea of who exactly we were and why they had to spend time with us. However, once a little time had passed, and with the fantastic support from Madame Gray, our efforts paid off and the laughter began to flow freely.
We have witnessed some spectacular acrobatics from the children in the sports hall, taken part in some heated games of football, built breath-taking lego structures and engaged in many an intellectual debate about what the scariest horror film is. In the lead-up to Christmas, the festive spirit truly arrived at Balgreen with some creative Christmas cards being made, doused in as much glitter as was necessary to satisfy our little artists in the group. Seeing the children develop and grow in confidence, along with all the accompanying pranks and jokes, has by far been the most satisfying part of the Koinonia programme to date, which, in my opinion, has become a mutual relationship of learning, where being with our buddies has encouraged us as boys to learn new skills, as well as helping our buddies develop as people, while still having plenty of fun along the way.