'If we want our children to grow up to be caring, compassionate and empathetic adults who will give back to their community, we need to create opportunities for them to learn how to do this from a young age,' says Philip Brown, headteacher at All Saints' CofE Primary School in Maldon, Essex.
His school has done just that, by setting up a project where pupils visit residents with dementia in a local care home. The Maldon Up! project is led by the children, who plan and run weekly activity sessions with the residents. These include games, dancing and crafts, as well as simply chatting about each other's lives and shared interests.
The project not only helps reduce feelings of loneliness for the residents, it has also had a profound effect on the young people taking part, says Philip Brown. 'Their perceptions of older people have altered, their social skills have improved and, importantly, they have begun to understand the complexity and impact of dementia.'
Maldon Up! is now entering its third year and so far more than 135 children have taken part. The project, which has been funded by a £3,600 grant from the #iwill Fund, has been so successful that there are plans to replicate it in other schools. The #iwill Fund supports projects that help young people engage in their communities and understand local issues. It is one of a number of grant-giving funds managed by the independent charitable trust, Essex Community Foundation (ECF). In turn, ECF is part of a collective network of 46 community foundations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Each foundation manages charitable funds - set up by individuals, companies and public agencies - to support local projects and voluntary organisations. Collectively, UK Community Foundations make up the fourth largest grant-maker in the UK, giving £98million in the last year.