Mary’s Meals – The Backpack Project in Prep

The festive season has begun with an exciting charity project coordinated by the School Council. St Helen’s Prep School pupils have organised a very special Christmas present in the form of 365 backpacks laden with goodies!

The girls were encouraged to donate their old backpacks to children living more than 7,000 miles away in Malawi. By packing basic items, such as pencils, rulers and clothes, the students were able to reflect upon how little their peers in other countries actually have.

Collecting for Mary’s Meals and their Backpack Project, allowed students to participate in an active and meaningful way. As part of the project, teachers spoke to their classes about Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, and discussed how their donations might be the most that these children will have ever received in their lives.

It also presented a wonderful opportunity to teach students about recycling and how to avoid waste. The students were struck to learn that items they’ve outgrown or no longer want can be so useful – and so appreciated – by other children. The knowledge that impoverished children will benefit from the bags was a really powerful learning experience for both KS1 and KS2.

“When I began to collect items for The Backpack Project I felt excited knowing that a girl or boy my age would be receiving a rucksack – it brought on a lovely warm feeling.” – Avar

“Sometimes when I think of my future and when I’m older, I think I will try to help as many charities as I can. When I saw the list of all the things I needed to bring, I felt a bit nervous but my friend helped me out and I got everything. I think that the project was a great experience and would love to do it again.” – Raani

“My experience being involved in the project was that I had fun and it made me feel proud because I was helping children like us to have everything they need for school.” – Safa

“I loved being part of the project because it was fun and it made me think about how much stuff I have and don’t need.” – Aviya

“When I was getting my backpack ready, I felt really motivated by all the smiling faces we had seen in the video. I kept thinking about how the children in Malawi would feel and how their lives would change. It was my first time doing a project like this and I was really surprised that I could get physically involved and that it wasn’t just giving money.” – Miraya

Mrs Lee commented “The work with Mary’s Meals has been a project that has been led by the girls and involved the staff and parents as a real community effort. It has been wonderful to see how even the youngest members of St Helen’s have been able to understand what they are doing and how they are changing another child’s life. One of our Reception girls carefully explained to me when handing over her backpack – it was difficult to give away her Peppa Pig backpack but the little girl who was going to get it didn’t have anything to help her with her school work and she had lots of things. As these projects at St Helen’s are, it has been a joyful, generous and rich learning experience. I am grateful to the girls on the Prep School Councils for leading us all on this journey.”

Thank you to everyone who has contributed from pupils, staff and our wonderful parents – with a special mention to Mrs Shah – and all those at Mary’s Meals for their amazing coordinating efforts.