Derwent Lodge girls are encouraged to think and act in a socially responsible fashion all the time. Helping others less fortunate or in immediate need is just one feature of this important aspect of their education.
Our link with Nepal
Derwent Lodge established a link with the children and communities in Nepal after a former deputy head, Mrs Humphry-Baker, and her daughter visited the country and became aware of the HVP schools organisation. HVP’s mission is to provide an education to boys and girls regardless of ability to pay, caste, creed or religious beliefs. They also teach the ideals of peace, tolerance and international fellowship.
The girls were particularly interested in the Children’s Peace Home being built in the Headmaster's garden in a village near Dang, for children in severe need of free full time care, either because they were orphaned, or because their parents could no longer look after them.
Since 2005, the DL girls have sold handicrafts made in the community centre run by CM Yogi, the founder of the schools, in order to raise money for the development of the Children’s Peace Home. Purses, scarves, pencil cases, cards and other handmade crafts are sold at our Christmas and Summer Fairs. 2011 and 2012 leavers generously donated a monetary gift to the Children’s Peace Home.
Teachers and headteachers from the HVP schools have visited us at Somerhill, showing a film about the natural beauty of Nepal, giving moving and inspirational assemblies to help the girls understand what life is like for needy children in rural Nepal, and answering questions about the life and customs of the people in Nepal. The girls were very taken by the message of truth, love, peace, selfless service and non-violence.
The devastating earthquakes in Nepal in May 2015 were deeply upsetting but the DL girls were extremely keen to get involved with fundraising projects and donation appeals to help ease the suffering. During the next few weeks, we had several personal messages from the staff at HVP keeping us updated on how the money raised was being used to rebuild lives of those with whom we feel a particularly special bond.
Since leaving DL in 2013, Mrs Humphry-Baker has been actively involved with another organisation that supports education of children in less fortunate circumstances, those in Rwanda. She has visited the sites where schools are being built in rural areas, and had the experience of ‘teaching teachers’ as a member of a volunteer group which took lesson activities and resources out to the tiny village schools. Our school supports Rwanda Aid and follows the projects funded by this charity. We raise money by selling handmade cards and stationery items at Christmas and Summer Fairs, alongside other fundraising activities suggested by the girls themselves.
The whole Somerhill community is linked to the Kusasa Project through an ex-member of YC staff, Mme Berard-Spiers, and the Riordan family. Again, the focus of the project is improving opportunities for a good education for children, this time in the Franschhoek Valley, South Africa. Staff visiting SA often take over boxes or suitcases of classroom equipment, as well as uniform and even puppets! The Kusasa Art Auction, featuring art work produced by the children of Somerhill, raised in excess of £30,000, enough for the purchase of a minibus to transport children from the townships to school. We thoroughly enjoy visits from ‘Muma J’ (Mme Spiers) and the guests she brings with her. These are usually students who have benefitted from an education provided by Kusasa, and it is always very thought-provoking to hear about their lives compared to our own.
Swimming, juggling and eating cakes!
There are many, many other charities that girls at Derwent Lodge support in a number of ways. The Schools at Somerhill annual 24-hour swimathon is now a regular feature of the Lent term calendar. The DL girls join YC boys, SPP children, Somerhill staff and parents in a non-stop swimming event that raises several thousands of pounds each year for cancer charities.
Comic Relief is supported eagerly by pupils at Somerhill. The girls get thoroughly excited about the opportunity to show off their talents; not just juggling, but hoola-hooping, acrobatics, singing, instrumental performances, impressions – even gargling the national anthem! This huge fundraising event every other year is always a fun day and donations come flooding in, reflecting the appreciation of the pupils’ talents and enthusiasm for performing for a great cause.
Cake Sales are a highlight of every Friday morning. Forms take it in turns to bring in calorie-laden goodies that are sold at morning break to the hungry girls clutching their purses in the hope of getting a slice of that deliciously gooey chocolate cake before the teachers see it! Irrespective of who gets the cake and eats it, cake sales are a wonderful way for forms to raise cash for charities of their choice. The girls discuss suggestions and vote on which charity they wish to donate the money to. These might be small local charities or larger-scale national appeals. Often the girls will respond to a recent visit from a representative of a particular organisation, such as Guide Dogs for the Blind, Great Ormond Street Hospital, or Hospice in the Weald.
Year Six plan and run their own Leavers’ Stalls at the Somerhill Summer Fair, again, choosing which organisation to donate the proceeds to.