RIYADH: Students at Aldenham Prep School in Riyadh marked the end of summer by learning to give back to their communities through charity donations and harvest festival celebrations.
Harvest festivals are commonly held in the UK around the beginning of October. The occasion aims to celebrate the work of farmers and agricultural communities in preparation for winter. For schools, this celebration means encouraging students to focus on charitable causes.
In Riyadh, the students at Aldenham created care packages for charity. Most of the students went grocery shopping with their families to hand-pick non-perishable goods such as dry pasta, beans, rice and canned vegetables to donate to the Charity Committee for Orphans Care, selected by the school council.
“The beauty of the way harvest is celebrated now is by collecting lots of non-perishable goods. They may not be very exciting, but a food bank or an orphanage can then hold on to those things and hand them out when the families need them. Your position as the family who can afford to buy extra means that you’re supporting other people,” Victoria Gocher, headmistress at Aldenham Prep School, told Arab News.
The children had prepared for the day’s festivities weeks earlier by practicing a song titled “Seeds of Friendship.” They later performed at a school assembly dressed in yellow and in accessories of their own making, joined by their parents. The performance was a way for children to show appreciation for those around them as well as the importance of community efforts.
The school has already delivered part of its donations to an orphanage and is in the process of transporting the rest of the goods. While taking part in donations was optional for students at the school, most were happy to contribute to the cause.
“They want to buy the best things, and they want to donate the best products,” Safa Alani, a mother of two students, Ribal and Maria, told Arab News.
“We bought sugar, pasta and beans,” Ribal, in his fifth year, and Maria, in her fourth, said.
Third-grader Rayan expressed the good feeling he got from helping people in need, adding that he hopes to take part in more charitable efforts. “We brought some food like pasta, but not food that can break down, so it doesn’t expire — pasta, rice,” he said.
Being part of the process of preparing donations, planning a shopping list and packaging the goods gave the students an idea of how simple actions can positively impact the lives of others.
“He could see and imagine that the pasta dish that we make at home is going to help someone. It’s going to be a dish that someone else eats. I could see the excitement in his eyes, that this dish will contribute to someone’s life somehow,” Dima Ahmad, Rayan’s mother, told Arab News.
A key focus for Aldenham Prep School in Riyadh, a branch of the UK-based institution, is not only teaching kids the meaning of giving back, but also creating opportunities for cultural exchange and discourse. Instilling moral values and shaping good character is one of the school’s core initiatives.
“I think Aldenham has always been about values because, a long time after you’ve left the math and English and everything else behind, who you are and why you are that person stays with you through into adulthood,” Gocher said.
There are many values that the school aims to ingrain in young minds, but Aldenham focuses on respect, determination and aspiration.
“We’re not just about grades and graduating, and becoming head of X or Y, it’s about creating humans,” Ahmad said.
As Aldenham hosts a mix of expats and locals, it creates a platform for students to not only learn from their educators, but also from one another. The children are encouraged to speak, share their opinions and interact with students from different grades.
“It’s truly multicultural. The children are really enjoying learning from one another, and the staff from the children, and vice versa. As a community, we’re growing in strength,” Gocher said.
An inclusive and adaptive context-aware learning environment at the school comes as part of a global change in education through the development of safe campuses, inclusive environments and fresh learning methodologies.
“Things have changed from our age to our children’s age over time… this is what we aim for: Making the learning process more fun for our children to wake up everyday and go to school,” Ahmad said.