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Haverstock School welcomes 250 homeless guests over Christmas period

PUBLISHED: 16:44 14 December 2016 | UPDATED: 15:42 19 December 2016

Haverstock School headteacher John Dowd.

Haverstock School headteacher John Dowd.

Archant

Staff and students welcoming 250 homeless guests into the school over the Christmas period believe it is their duty to reach out to isolated people in the community.

Students at Haverstock School made a ‘welcome wall’ for their homeless visitors last year. 
Students at Haverstock School made a ‘welcome wall’ for their homeless visitors last year.

For the third year running Haverstock School will be running the scheme alongside national charity for homeless people, Crisis, which sees students donating food and toiletries to folk who have to sleep rough in north London throughout the year.

Students have been learning more about the reasons for homelessness in assemblies and for the third year running Year 9 pupils are producing a ‘welcome wall’ with messages for the guests.

Headteacher John Dowd said: “It is great to welcome our guests from Crisis again this year.

“Homelessness is a societal issue not an individual one, but for many people it manifests itself in isolation and helplessness.

"Whatever your understanding of Christmas, it is a time for families and communities and it reminds us all of our responsibility to care for and about each other"

Haverstock School headteacher John Dowd

“For me participating in this fantastic scheme is not an act of charity or generosity, but a way of delivering on our responsibility as an inclusive community school.

“Whatever your understanding of Christmas, it is a time for families and communities and it reminds us all of our responsibility to care for and about each other.”

Jim Mulligan, who is vice chair of governors at Haverstock School, is no stranger to Crisis – which opened a clothes shop in Finsbury Park earlier this year – having volunteered for the charity for the past two years.

“It seems that in the face of the superb care provided by Crisis for so many people, the offer to do a couple of bingo sessions is trivial,” he said.

“I learned my skills as a bingo caller at the monthly Saturday sessions Haverstock staff and students provide for our older neighbours in the community.

“We all love the atmosphere at those sessions. We have created a real community within a community. So it seemed natural to extend this enjoyment to friends in Crisis.

“The Haverstock students collected a wealth of prizes for the bingo and created a ‘welcome wall’ with good-will messages for every day that the homeless friends were present.”

Mr Mulligan believes the sessions were enjoyed by participants and students alike, with the latter learning at close quarters about the impact of homelessness.

“I know from speaking to some of the students that they were able to empathise with homeless people,” he added.

“I am certain those students will continue volunteering.”

One of them is ex-student Anton Peterson who has volunteered at Crisis at Christmas twice over the last five years.

He said: “My involvement included hosting a bingo session with the homeless in which they had the opportunity to receive prizes, clothing and toiletries to make they lives just that little bit more bearable.”

Parents at the Haverstock Hill school are also being encouraged to volunteer for Crisis over the Christmas period by signing up at crisis.org.uk/sponsor.

From there you can select Haverstock as a destination and volunteer at the Winter’s Residential Centre in Chalk Farm.

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