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Taking the initiative helps BCHS girls bag £4k charity prize

By Alan Beresford

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THREE Buckie Community High School students have beaten off competition from across the country, not to mention the effects of the lockdown, to claim a four-figure jackpot for charity.

All smiles after winning £4000 for Alzheimer Scotland are BCHS students (from left) Arwen Mitchell, Sara McCormack and Chloe Shewan.
Picture: Daniel Forsyth
All smiles after winning £4000 for Alzheimer Scotland are BCHS students (from left) Arwen Mitchell, Sara McCormack and Chloe Shewan. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

Not being able to attend school or see their friends or teacher since March – not to mention the project they were working on becoming more challenging – proved to be hurdles to be taken in their stride for trio Arwen Mitchell, Chloe Shewan and Sara McCormack as they went on to scoop £4000 for Alzheimer Scotland.

Prior to lockdown, the girls and their S2 classmates had been working on their entries to the Youth Philanthropy Initiative (YPI), a national scheme which BCHS has participated successfully in for a number of years. Backed by the Wood Foundation and organised at the school through the history, modern studies and RMPS departments, the format usually sees S2 students work in groups to identify and research a good cause and make a case for their chosen group to receive £3000.

However, measures to battle the coronavirus saw schools closed, closely followed by a nationwide lockdown, which stopped the contest dead in its tracks at the semi-final stage.

The revised competition, now rebranded #yourcommunityfund for this year, put in place by the Wood Foundation saw the prize money increased to £4000 per charity – the catch, however, was that teams were now scrapping it out on a national basis for a share of the funding pot.

It was not a task which deterred the Buckie High girls, who went on to claim one of only 50 prizes from a total of 90 or so applicants and were only one of two Moray schools to taste success.

While the Buckie team had the option of picking a new charity, the girls stuck with Alzheimer Scotland.

They said: "The impact of the coronavirus has meant that the support given to people with dementia has been severely affected.

"Support groups which Alzheimer Scotland run have had to stop, which had provided support for both sufferers and their carers. Diagnosis of dementia for people living in the area is being delayed due to the impact the coronavirus is having on the work of the NHS and support offered at that initial diagnosis stage has stopped as the Diagnostic Support Worker has been recalled to work within the hospital.

"Many people living with dementia are elderly, and as that group of people have been told to self-isolate, this means they have to remain at home, leaving them more vulnerable. Where possible, some carers are also having to put themselves into self-isolation with the sufferer and become 24-hour carers."

The youngsters' efforts were hailed by Buckie High's YPI organiser, RMPS teacher Stewart Clelland.

"I'm full of admiration for what Arwen, Chloe and Sara have achieved," he said.

"It's amazing and inspiring what they've done with everything that's been going on.

"To be thinking about other people first during lockdown is inspirational to see.

"They've had a lot of extra challenges to overcome, with the school being closed and being unable to see their friends at the height of the lockdown. They got their in the end, putting their presentation together at home using email and video messaging to keep in touch with each other and me.

"They could have quite easily just have called it a day or changed the charity they wanted to support, bu tthey stuck with it."

With plans afoot for classes to resume in August, Mr Clelland said that the aim was to get the girls to share feedback on their victorious experiences with other classes, ether in person or via video.

He went on to note that all those taking part in the YPI ended up as winners in many ways.

"It's a great experience for self-directed research and learning and to be involved in something they are passionate about.

"The teams have to work together, organise themselves and communicate with outside organisations, which are all great life skills."

All of the entries to #yourcommunityfund were assessed by a panel of judges selected by the Wood Foundation, who scrutinised each submission based equally on presentation and research undertaken.

More local news here.

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