Family & Education

Why charity is an important part of school life

London schools are showing their commitment to charity by getting involved with Mitzvah Day, or starting their own charitable ventures


At North London Collegiate School, in Edgware, the Founder’s Day prayer reminds students: “Thou dost require much from those to whom much is given”. Charity is an important part of school life, teaching young people to give back to society. 

NLCS girls regularly volunteer after school at local care homes and guests from the homes were invited to the school’s annual summer get-together, the Livability Party. More than 30 girls volunteered at the party, chatting to guests, serving coffee and cake and acting as bingo callers. 
Other recent charity activities at North London included a performance by the year 12 choir at the Henry NiHill care home. They had performed at the Royal Free Hospital earlier in the year.

The school’s charitable programme is named Canonaid, after the location of the school, at Canons. This year, the Canonaid house fête and sports day were combined to create an end-of-term extravaganza including inflatable sumo wrestling, a bungee run and hair braiding, raising money for Plan International, which advances children’s rights and equality for girls.

Merchant Taylors’ School, in Northwood, holds Mencap fun days and fundraisers and supports Phab, which helps children and adults with serious mental and physical disabilities. For one week in the holidays (Phab Week), MTS boys, with girls from nearby St Helen’s School, look after their teenage guests 24/7 and organise activities for them — this year, they even enjoyed a trip to a flying simulator. MTS is one of only three schools involved in Phab Week, which many pupils describe as a life-changing experience. The school also raises awareness of charitable causes through presentations and discussions in its tutor periods. Speakers from global and local organisations are also invited to give assemblies. 

This year, 30 boys went on a World Challenge expedition to Mozambique and Swaziland, including some time spent volunteering at an Aids-affected village. 

Teenagers seeking Jewish volunteering opportunities can sign up to Project Impact, run in conjunction with JVN, the Jewish Volunteering Network. 
Project ImpACT creates and supports meaningful group volunteering opportunities for years nine to 11,  for a variety of charities, Jewish and general. 

Activities have included cooking dinner for the homeless, running a lunch quiz and tea for Holocaust survivors, creating digital activity books for children in hospital, visiting care homes to interact with the residents  and making food packages for underprivileged families. A cookathon on November 4 will provide dinner for 100 homeless people. 

Project ImpACT hours can be tied to a Duke of Edinburgh award, V Inspired and other awards. More details from
It is the aim of South Hampstead High School that students not only play their part in the school community, but also in the community beyond school, volunteering and raising funds for worthwhile causes. 

“Working with and for communities plays a crucial role in shaping sensitive and empathic leaders and at South Hampstead, we are determined to give our girls many opportunities to do this,” says the school.

Once a week, year 10s volunteer at JW3’s In the Loop programme, teaching IT novices how to tweet, text, Skype, post a photo on Instagram and set up a Facebook account.

“Volunteering for In the Loop was an immensely rewarding experience.  I showed an elderly lady how to use Skype and WhatsApp. She can now easily communicate with her grandchildren in Israel,” says a South Hampstead student.

Mitzvah Day founder, Laura Marks, is an alumna of the school and this is the fourth year South Hampstead has been involved. This year, girls will collect donations for Little Village, a charity helping local families in need; the school will also support The Backpack Project, which provides equipment to schoolchildren in Malawi.  Last year, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis was among VIP visitors who helped students, parents and staff sort through donations of clothes for the homeless on Mitzvah Day.

The school also partners Spear Camden, an organisation that runs a coaching programme to transform the lives of unemployed young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and prepare them for the workplace. Year 12s and 13s will support Spear trainees during coaching sessions and assist with CV writing and other tasks. Parents have also been invited, to provide practice interviews. 

Each year, South Hampstead chooses a whole-school charity to support. This year, it is Action Breaks Silence, which was established “to create a world where women and girls can live their lives free from fear of gender-based violence”. 

South Hampstead students have also been visiting residents at local care homes for more than 20 years. Pupils get to know the residents in the homes and find out about their lives. In the words of the school, “it truly opens their hearts and minds”. 
Sinai Jewish Primary School “nurtures a generosity of spirit” and says: “Teaching our children about charitable causes and fundraising from an early age is imperative to them growing into proud and contributing global citizens, with good Jewish values as well as strong British values.” 

The theme of tzedakah runs throughout Jewish studies teaching at Sinai. 

“We like to instil the children with a mindset that they can make a difference,” says the school’s Debbie Joseph. “Learning about giving and helping others gives children a feeling of empowerment in an uncertain world where unexpected or sad events happen every day. Reaching out to those in need, through fundraising, volunteering or donating, is central to Jewish being.” 

Charitable learning is also tied into the assembly schedule and Sinai is planning a Remembrance assembly to mark the centenary of the First World War. 

Among causes supported by Sinai are Comic Relief, Children in Need, Sport Relief, Camp Simcha’s toy drive, Chai Cancer Care’s Crazy Hair Day and MyIsrael’s Israel 70@70 campaign. 

In conjunction with Gift, children and parents made mishloach manot at Purim and fruit baskets at Tu B’shvat to distribute to those in need across the community. “A great way to reinforce charitable values is to make giving a family activity,” says Joseph. 

For Mitzvah Day, the families collect clothes, toys and games and deliver them to the local St Luke’s hospice. 

Last academic year, the year six Young Enterprise “fiver challenge” exemplified the focus on charity and the joy of performing mitzvot, as students decided to raise money for Kisharon, where they had been involved in an integration project. Sinai children raised more than £1,000 for the children they had spent time with, helping them to develop life skills and do their wheelchair exercises and joining in with their lessons. Sinai also supports children who are keen to take on their own fundraising challenges. 

It has welcomed Zichron Menachem into school several times as groups of girls have grown and cut their hair to make hairpieces for children living with cancer. 

Smaller fundraising activities are also dotted throughout the school calendar, from selling lollies and toys in the playground after school to washing the teacher’s cars.

“It is especially important to teach children that they are part of a larger community and that we are all responsible for those around us,” says Joseph. “By giving the value of charity a central role in our school, we are encouraging our children to grow up with a healthy sense of compassion and a strong charitable spirit.”

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