As I walked through the door to Year 5’s Emerald Class I could barely hear a sharpened pencil drop – the pupils were sitting and reading quietly, classroom immaculate, with not a sound of the chaotic madness one would expect from 30 ten year olds.
Was it nervousness keeping every child anchored into their seat, eyes boring into their books? Or perhaps pre warnings of silence from the teachers circling the room?
I was soon to find out that neither was the case; these children were simply focused, collecting themselves and trying to remember their individual parts ahead of the 34 slide presentation they were imminently presenting to their local heroes – the entire Colchester United football team.
Having learnt a great deal about the daily struggles that are faced by their counterparts living in Mumbai’s street and slum communities through our Mumbai Experiences project, the pupils at Milldene had developed empathy and compassion for brave children their own age, who act with courage and resilience everyday of their lives in order to survive within some of the worlds most impoverished communities.
Taking it upon themselves to seek help in a bold movement of ‘children helping children,’ they wrote to as many famous people they could think of to raise both awareness and funds. Colchester United got back to them and pledged to help with both!
As fourteen sportswear clad men walked one after the other into Emerald class, the room suddenly looked very small.
After taking their seats at the back so that they could be presented to, two feisty year 5 campaigners jumped out of their seats and bounded towards the front of the room to welcome the team players and introduce the project.
After 34 slides packed with photos and facts, impassioned speeches delivered expertly by 30 pint sized activists, and the force of gravity finding itself in the jaw of every adult in the room, the presentation was done. A roar of applause filled the tiny Essex classroom and the footballers, who were visibly impressed, got ready to share ideas on how they could help.
Handing over signed football shirts and boots to be auctioned off, and promising to shake buckets at games, the team offered to spread the word and told the children to keep going in their admirable quest to help others. They told the children that the sky was the limit and to keep being brave in their ambition to achieve big things.
Off out to the school field for a photo together (no time for a kick around sadly), Emerald class then waved off their new friends, left excited about bringing their fundraising plans to fruition and looking forward to the next time their newfound voices would be so willingly heard.