Service to the wider community from a thriving and very busy boarding house.
Park Grange is home to 53 talented and energetic young ladies aged 13 to 18. Our aim is to provide a nurturing environment that enables them to make use of the opportunities open to them, and ultimately to fulfil their potential in whichever direction they choose.
There is a strong sense of identity and community within any boarding house and Park Grange is no different. This was made clear to us by comments from this year's leavers, one example being, 'This house and the memories I have from it will remain with me forever. I'm proud and honoured to have lived here.'
The appreciation of all they have enables the girls to look outwards, and I am constantly impressed that, despite their busy lives, they are always keen to invest time and effort into helping others, whether within the framework of the school day, or simply because they feel passionate about a particular cause.
Living in a boarding house, it can be seen that 'Service' at Sevenoaks is not simply confined to VSU or the CAS commitments of the IB.
So what can we do as a house? Fundraising as a community features highly. The most notable event in our calendar is the Annual Park Grange Alternative Lunch. We are very proud that this is the biggest student-run fundraiser event and raises over £4000 every year. As the title suggests, Park Grange invites the whole school to lunch. Food options include hotdog, macaroni cheese or a baked potato with crisps, a drink and a slice of homemade cake. The event is organised by the Lower Sixth: food orders are taken, a colour-coded meal ticket issued and 1000+ portions of cake are baked; about half of these are made in Park Grange the day before the lunch, a Sunday now known as 'cake bake day'. The kitchen is full of laughter and activity from morning until 10pm and everyone mucks in, producing cakes and mess in equal measure! It is then a wonderful sight to see the games room fill up on the Sunday evening with beautifully sculpted cakes. The next day our guests are served their lunch in the boarding house before moving to the lawn where other houses can hold stalls and a live band entertains. Every Park Grange girl is needed to ensure the event runs smoothly and each year group is allocated their own task. Whether it is rubbish collecting, cake serving, or queue controlling, every role is essential. The girls are rewarded with a great sense of achievement and quickly learn that with a bit a team effort, much can be achieved.
Despite working hard at the Park Grange lunch, the Middle School were keen to have a fundraiser they could call their own. A few years ago, therefore, The Sound of the Underground emerged: a student-run Middle School concert held with the aim of showcasing students of all musical abilities and genres. To stamp the PG mark on the event, cake features heavily and our kitchen is once more taken over by keen and careful bakers. As well as organising the concert, many of the Park Grange Middle School girls also perform and it is always a delight to see new talents emerge in this smaller forum. This year the girls raised just under £600 for the Middle School Charity Week.
Park Grange is also the venue for the staff crèche on Thursday afternoon. Run by VSU volunteers, children under five are able to enjoy one another's company and that of the 'big girls and boys' in an hour and half of fun and play. While much more is accomplished on an individual basis through the VSU scheme we know that there is no one formula for service.
Fortunately for us, altruistic acts can be performed as a community in a way that enhances life for all, and the life skills that the girls learn valuable whilst helping are invaluable. Most importantly, it is clear that fundraising provides them with some of their favourite memories and the greatest sense of pride from their time in Park Grange.
Liz Bassett, Housemistress, 2011