Service to Others

Service learning permeates the day-to-day ethos of the school and is given primacy. The school has a Charities Committee which promotes, charts and monitors service learning on a local, national and global level. The school is involved internationally with two schools in Uganda and has adopted a slum area in Trilok Puri in New Delhi to which it has an on-going and passionate commitment. School rugby tours to the southern hemisphere always involve commitment with a charity based in the target destination.

Why is Service Learning vital?

It is only vital if done properly! Karl Max said that “all philanthropy is suspect”. The psychology of giving is as complex as the relationship between the giver and the receiver; the helper and the helped. Many school websites show pictures from the developing countries with their own pupils giving gifts to inhabitants of impoverished villages who line up gratefully and faithfully to receive them.

One is tempted to ask who profits most from this situation? The giver or the receiver? Why couldn’t the givers simply donate their air fares that took them to the place of need rather than go there in person? The receivers would receive more? After all, to have engaged in international relief work is a powerful curriculum vitae addition for any Sixth Former. It can certainly help win that career-defining internship? The motives and determination of Royal School pupils selected for overseas relief work are examined carefully. The lure must be pure.

The answer lies in laying out precisely what we want to achieve from service learning. How did the students earn the air fare to get there? Did the parents, who could afford to do so, simply sign a cheque or did the pupils put themselves out hugely to raise the air fare themselves? Clearly the latter is important to foster the ACHIEVEMENT INVOLVING SACRIFICE that is so necessary in the learning experience (see the PERMA – Five Pillars of Sustained Well-Being and Happiness section of this website). The visit and the human contact is literally “where the magic happens”! We are not just seeking a good holiday experience, original photo snaps, a tan and some excellent cv fodder! Service learning done properly should be INSPIRATIONALLY TRANSFORMATIONAL and should leave a life-long resonance that stirs the participant sufficiently to lead and exhort future similar social action. EDUCATION IS CAUGHT NOT TAUGHT. THE EMOTIONS NEED TO BE ENGAGED and service learning does just that in spades! If you were to interview the adults or children in Trilok Puri in New Delhi about whether they would prefer receiving a big parcel one morning in the post, rather than smaller gifts combined with the two-week presence of our Sixth Formers and accompanying staff, they would reply, resoundingly, and in unison, that they would infinitely prefer the latter.

The lifelong friendships forged and the resultant ongoing  relationships have an exponential and unquantifiable yield that a single parcel arrival cannot achieve. The experience is uplifting and humbling for both the giver and the receiver. Our students realise that it is possible to be extremely happy in the poorest of circumstances and that HAPPINESS IS NOT A FUNCTION OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC STATUS. How may adults know this? How many multi-millionaires give away most of their fortune to worthy causes later in life? Why? The community of Trilok Puri is uplifted by the lifelong relationships fostered. Cultures are shared and a problem shared is a problem halved. Life is never the same again; for good reason! Service learning begins with every thing we know about positivity, smiling, civility, helpfulness, courtesy and politeness on an every day basis, wherever we are. This makes many small changes in our own and other people’s lives. If we are extremely lucky, we get to be hit, full-force in the gut, with a simultaneous assault on all of our senses, by the altruism, compassion and empathy bug, which is hopefully long-lasting; with an overseas relief-work opportunity somewhere like Trilok Puri

Paul Crute, Headmaster