Reading back over some of my newsletter articles, I've noticed a number of characteristics- for some of which I probably ought to apologise. For example, I have a tendency to use sentences which are far too long (like this one); and I have a tendency to slip into quasi-academic education speech. Most of all however, I've noticed how proud I often sound, although I'm not sure I want to apologise for this.
True, pride can be an ugly characteristic. It is a "vice" which, as C S Lewis said: "everyone in the world loathes" especially when it smacks of triumphalism or self-aggrandisement- and I would certainly want to avoid these traits. However, as George Eliot said, there is a second kind of pride- the kind of pride a parent feels when their child first walks or speaks. It's a pride in the success or goodness of another person, a pride devoid of the "ignorance and power" which Robert Fulghum (in his brilliantly entitled ''All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten") tells us creates a "deadly mixture" with pride. Hopefully, this is the pride I frequently feel.
In other words, what makes me proud is our students, and their incredible achievements.
Take our recent 40 Hour Famine, for example, organised by World Vision- one of our designated partner-charities- and assisted by ten Emmanuel World Vision youth leaders, under the care of Mrs Cheryl English, our fundraising co-ordinator for chaplaincy.
The aim of the 40 Hour Famine is very simple - as World Vision puts it: "By giving something up for 40 hours, you can raise awareness and funds to help fight global hunger." So, as we do every year, we asked our students if they would like to "give up food, furniture, technology, talking -anything that matters to you!" and through this, seek to raise awareness. World Vision's hope this year was that, through the famine, participants would be able to support "projects in Bangladesh, Cambodia, East Timor, Laos, Malawi, Nepal, Swaziland and Uganda with the funds going towards solutions like nutrition training for parents, child health services and better agricultural practices."
Given the active, challenging nature of this campaign, it should come as no surprise that some of our students took part- after all, active compassion is part of Emmanuel's 'knowing loving serving' DNA.
It wasn't just "some" of our students who joined in- huge numbers did. And we didn't just have students giving up their furniture and their lollies. Over the course of two weeks, we also had milkshake days, bake sales, free dress days, handball competitions, sausage sizzles, Fathers' Day gift certificate sales and so on.
As a result, our students learnt a huge amount about team-work, about business, about marketing and communication, and they also put the Compass values into real practise.
However, more than all that, they raised an amazing $20,000 dollars! That is a significant amount of money by anyone's standards; but, when put into the context of the Global South, it is staggering. As the BBC's Ruth Alexander reported in her article "Dollar benchmark: The rise of the $1-a-day statistic," living off less than a dollar a day is "still a reality of life for 13% of people in China; 47.5% in Sub-Saharan Africa; 36% in South Asia; 14% in East Asia and the Pacific; 6.5% in Latin America and the Caribbean. Almost 1.3bn people in total." So, effectively, our students raised the equivalent of 20 000 days of earnings for, say, many of the Bangladeshi factory workers who make the clothes we wear. Or to put it in another context, they raised enough to build a monsoon-proof Institute for an Indian Mother and Child school for up to 300 hundred of Kolkata's very poorest and most vulnerable children. Quite amazing!
And in a month when we have seen governments dragging their feet over refugees, and in a year when some of the wealthiest countries have cut their aid to the poorest, an achievement like this is particularly astounding.
So, even though I know there is a risk of ugliness, I will remain incredibly proud of our students' achievements.