These kind Harrogate pupils are making a difference before school every week

With so much change going on in our world, there is something very powerful and pure about the simplicity of kindness and its ability to transform people’s lives in our communities.

Friday, 14th February 2020, 12:04 pm
Updated Friday, 14th February 2020, 12:28 pm

Kindness is a quality that has stood the test of time, and one which in challenging times holds the key to a bright and promising future for us all.

Sometimes we can doubt our individual power to make a difference, when it is something we all possess and can channel to help others - giving a strong sense of wellbeing for the recipient, but also for ourselves as we realise that we have done something positive.

A wonderful friendship: Gwen, Katie and Jasmine with Violet Davill at breakfast club.

Being kind already comes naturally to the Harrogate district and residents right across North Yorkshire, which is why the Harrogate Advertiser, in partnership with North Yorkshire County Council and sister JPI Media titles in Yorkshire, has launched a major year-long campaign called Salt of the Earth to celebrate this, which will share inspiring stories and examples of the very easy but meaningful ways that we can all make somebody’s day brighter just by showing some thought.

In the fifth week of our Salt of the Earth campaign, we meet three selfless schoolchildren who always go the extra mile to make people smile.

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The breakfast club makes a difference every single week.

How three kind-hearted Harrogate schoolgirls are making an amazing difference to people's lives every single week, and learning new skills in the process

It’s often said that a good, hearty breakfast is the best way to kickstart your day - but in Harrogate, once a week on a Friday, this staple morning meal represents so much more, as it’s a gateway to meaningful friendships blossoming between children and elderly residents over a slice of toast and a cup of a tea.

Gwen Hesford and Jasmine Pickup, both ten, and Katie Turnbull, aged 11, all play a key role in serving up breakfast and setting tables at Woodlands Breakfast Club every week before school, and have been doing so with a smile and a cheerful demeanour ever since its inception two years ago.

The kind-hearted girls describe the elderly guests they chat to as ‘honorary grandparents,’ and treasure the beautiful friendships they have formed with them. The early starts and giving up an hour or so of their time before school makes a big difference to those who attend each week at Woodlands Methodist Church, but also to the girls’ own lives.

Happy to help: the young volunteers at breakfast club always make a difference.

Violet Davill, 87, said the breakfast club is the stand-out highlight of her week, and that the kindness shown by Katie, Gwen and Jasmine, and all the other community-minded volunteers, is a real tonic for her - bringing smiles, laughter, and putting a spring in her step on a Friday morning.

Violet said: “When you’re on your own, it’s nice to eat a meal with somebody, it is a very important thing. It’s great because you don’t feel lonely, because you know you’ve got to go out every week on a Friday morning to meet the children. It’s something to get up early for - my grandchildren live away, so it’s filling a need there as well, it’s lovely spending time with the children and telling them about my grandchildren.

“I think what we are supposed to be is extended grandmas - I’ve built up a lovely friendship with the girls, it’s the laughter and everything else. The smiles they give you, they make your day brighter, and it gives you a boost.

“It’s a whole different day, Friday, because you’ve got something special to get up to, something really special.”

Gwen, Jasmine and Katie, who are all Year Six pupils from Willow Tree Primary School, throw their hearts into everything they do at the breakfast club, and it’s something they really enjoy and gain lots of skills from in the process.

Katie said: “I feel like I’m making a difference even though it means getting up really early in the morning. It’s important to be kind, because not everyone in the world is kind, and if you show kindness, maybe other people will start to be kind too. Knowing I’ve made a difference to someone’s day is a really good feeling, knowing that someone is happy.

“Violet is really fun and kind, and she’s like an honorary grandmother to me in a way.”

The girls have grown in confidence by getting to know people from the wider community at the breakfast club, and they are very aware of the wide-ranging benefits of intergenerational friendships and the importance of showing some kindness.

Gwen said: “Being kind makes people feel happy, and it makes me feel happy as well, because I know I have done something to make someone smile.

“I feel like I’ve done something before school, and I think nowadays when people are on their technology a lot, texting and communicating with phones, it’s nice to just talk to people face to face.

“We’ve made friends with some of the older people who come, as well as other children who help out. The older people have nice stories to tell about what things were like years ago, and we like to listen to them.

“I think it’s easy to be kind, you don’t have to give up a lot of your time to make a difference, we just do a bit before school.”

The volunteers at breakfast club celebrated Violet’s birthday - a thoughtful gesture that really meant the world to her.

Violet said: “I said to them, ‘I haven’t had a birthday cake in years, it was so lovely of them. I shared it with a boy who was also celebrating his birthday, so I just blew one candle out, and he did the rest.

“Breakfast club is great because you see the children growing in confidence, it gives them new skills.”

Another important dimension to the breakfast club is that it utilises surplus food from supermarkets, who generously make donations - their kindness in turn encourages the children and adults to think more about the environment.

Jasmine said: “I like it because it’s recycling food, and it’s helping the environment so it’s not going to landfill. I really like helping out here because it makes me feel like I’ve done something to help the community, it’s bringing people together over food.”

Jasmine’s proud mum Christie said: “I think it makes them more aware of the community, and of the people that are in it. Jasmine loves hearing all the stories from the older people.”

Catherine Baxter, who is one of the organisers of the breakfast club, said: “There’s quite a magic atmosphere here really. The children turn up ready to learn, feeling really positive with a smile on their faces, and because it’s such a nice atmosphere, everyone leaves feeling happy. I think the benefits have now gone way beyond a Friday morning breakfast, to really building a community of people who care about each other and look out for each other.

“It’s these little chunks of volunteering that can make a real difference. People can be reluctant to commit to something that’s massive, but by doing something like this, you can find your own way to help.

“The girls are generous with their time, they are great at listening, and have always got a smile on their faces. They generally go the extra mile.”

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Have you done something kind that you feel proud of, or know someone who has? We would love to hear all about it. Email: [email protected]__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

New backing for Salt of the Earth campaign:

North Yorkshire Police

Area police commander, Det Supt Steve Thomas, said: “This campaign is a wonderful idea both in bringing communities closer together and highlighting the impact that can be made through small acts of kindness. Even something as simple as a hello or quick chat can make a big difference to someone’s day if they are feeling lonely or just simply in need of someone to listen. Being familiar with your local community has many benefits for everyone and makes it easier to spot anything out of the ordinary which in turn supports policing in keeping our neighbourhoods safe.”

Open Country, a Harrogate district charity which gives people with a disability the chance to get out into the countryside by providing a wide variety of activities

David Shaftoe, Chief Officer of Open Country, said: “At Open Country we work with so many people that could be described as ‘salt of the earth’ – both our hard working volunteers and our disabled members who face their challenges with true Yorkshire grit and determination. We are lucky to live and work in a district which is built on the efforts of individuals and organisations for whom kindness and compassion is a way of life. This campaign demonstrates that just one small act of kindness can change a person’s life, a really important message for today’s society with its myriad distractions and demands on our time.”