December is a time of giving and this year Kilgraston pupils decided to ask: “What did you give for Christmas?” and not, “what did you get?”
Their resounding answer was the gift of knowledge. Donated money, intended for ‘Secret Santa’ presents between themselves, raised £1,000, more than enough to train a teacher in Africa through SCIAF, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund.
Back in October, girls approached Stephen Johnston, Head of Religious Studies at the school, with the idea to sell ‘Real Gifts’ prior to Christmas. Having decided on their course of action, Kilgraston girls gave a presentation at the school’s weekly assembly to inform and encourage engagement with their fellow pupils.
The small leadership group soon got to work running a stall at lunchtimes, where they sold ‘real gifts’ in the shape of a donation toward life-essentials like crop seeds, sewing kits, pigs and goats. “I was delighted to help our pupils instigate this great project, but really they did all the work themselves,” said Mr Johnston.
However, the amount raised soon far exceeded expectations so Head, Dorothy MacGinty, suggested aiming for a higher goal. She said: “The girls decided to extend their giving to try and achieve the objective of training a teacher (£830 per annum). Girls rallied and donations for annual, in-house, ‘Secret Santa’ presents were shelved and the money given instead to the SCIAF project.” Mrs MacGinty continued: “Everyone should have access to education, to nurture the skills and get the knowledge they need to live life to the full. By providing training to teachers, it can help reach many more people in need and make a real and lasting difference, giving hope for the future.”
SCIAF, the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, is the official aid and development agency of the Catholic Church in Scotland, working in 15 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America to support some of the world's poorest people.
Patricia Ferguson Outreach Manager at SCIAF, said: “Each Christmas it’s incredible how people respond to our Real Gifts, seeing them as wonderful presents for their loved ones, but also as an opportunity to change the lives of some of the poorest people in the world.” Ms Ferguson continued: “The chance to train a teacher is a new gift we’re offering this year. We’re so grateful that the pupils at Kilgraston have chosen to pass on the gift of education. We know first-hand what an incredible difference it can make to the lives’ of children in some of the poorest countries in the world and it’s a real tribute to Kilgraston that they’ve shown such generosity.”
Pupils have decided to continue the project and make it an annual event; perhaps they are no longer such a ‘secret Santa!’