Francis Maude: tackling the poverty on our doorstep

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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a busy day in Horsham, including a visit to Christ’s Hospital School where I met students involved with the school’s Community Action programme. I mentioned how uplifting and inspiring I found the visit and thought readers might like to know more – not from me but from one of the students themselves.

So, 17-year-old George Manning takes over my column this week!

He explains the work CH pupils have been doing in conjunction with The Salvation Army and more specifically, their Christmas Present Appeal.

This involvement followed a talk by Amy Holtz at the school last term.

Over to George:

“Following Amy’s talk, I found that I was arranging a time and date with the Vicar of the Salvation Army at Horsham.

“When we arrived, there were a handful of eager helpers of all ages there, and my friends and I were beckoned over by beaming faces, echoing the same enthusiasm.

“We began by sorting through endless bin bags and plastic storage boxes of donated toys and gifts, organising the items into piles corresponding with each age group.

“What struck me was how much money and time people had spent selecting, buying and wrapping gifts.

“I found it odd they would never meet the recipients. But then, of course, that did not matter: making someone’s Christmas possible was enough of an incentive.

“Once we had sifted through every bag and box, we had to hand pick gifts for a family according to a list.

“I was given the sheet with ‘family C’ written at the top. Two boys and three girls. I found this particularly moving.

“So there I was, looking through our stockpile of gifts for a good toy for Boy No 2, five-years-old.

“I picked him out an Action Man, its box still protected by the cellophane – would he know that his only likely Christmas present was coming from The Salvation Army?

“The next day, we began by doing the same thing.

“After a few hours, another volunteer and I were asked to deliver sacks of gifts to a local primary school.

“We carried the bags up to the reception office, all 12 of them. I saw a little girl sitting behind the reception screen – was she one of the children who would receive a gift?

“I was overwhelmed with a sense of emotion that I may in some way have contributed to such a profound cause.

“This whole experience has changed me and what was so significant for me was that there is poverty on our own doorstep which can so easily be helped.”