Mount Carmel Primary School in Ealing, West London, received its Livesimply award last week after a two-hour assessment organised by CAFOD. For more than a year the school of around 30 staff and 470 pupils has put into action a plan to move towards living simply, sustainably and in solidarity with the poor.
The assessors - Barbara Kentish (Westminster Justice and Peace) and Ellen Teague (Columban JPIC) - were shown around by Deputy Head Tania Hunt. They visited the prayer garden, decorated with children's artwork from the natural world, including a Rosary made of berries, a display of pine cones, and stones with Catholic values written on them. The school grounds are also used for growing vegetables and fruit which are then consumed in the school. Assessors saw photos of children harvesting tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, all celebrated with a special harvest assembly. Then there was a compost area, bird boxes and several 'bug hotels'. Groups of children have regular trips around the school grounds, appreciating the natural world and discussing how to care for it. The pupils planted new bulbs in the Autumn, ready for a dramatic display of colour in the Spring.
Impressive wall displays around the school celebrated the green papal encyclical Laudato Si', linking environmental work with the Church's Social Teaching and Creation spirituality. Creation-themed assemblies and prayers wove through the practical action. Livesimply tips appear in the weekly school newsletter. On the school website, the Livesimply programme comes under the heading, 'Our Catholic Life' with the quote from John 10:10 referring to the mission 'to have life and have it to the full'.
'Solidarity with the poor' has prompted a regular school collection of non-perishable food for the Ealing Food bank. A project to create a cardboard city aimed to highlight hardship facing homeless peoples and there is outreach to the local charity Acton Homeless Concern and The Passage in Central London. Elderly people in the area have come into the school for tea parties, building respect between generations. Support for CAFOD provides a school response to international concerns and Family Fast Days are marked.
The team approach impressed the assessors. Senior school management work with teachers, the site manager, parents and pupils to provide a coherent and positive response to development challenges in the world. Reducing the use of plastic has involved collaboration by all sectors of the school. There is a team of "eco- warriors" to oversee recycling and reminding staff and children to turn off lights and projectors. A Livesimply steering team includes pupil leaders who meet termly and discuss ideas and progress, and they feed into the School Council - a great example of leadership training for pupils. Links with the local Northfields parish of SS Peter and Paul have been strengthened over the year, and parish priest Fr James Duffy has been very supportive. The assessors were very impressed by the dedication of the staff - the team of Mrs Alexander, Mrs Connolly, Miss Youshie and Anna Sobania, led by Tania Hunt, have been instrumental in gaining the award.
So, the Mount Carmel school has come a long way since Cardinal Vincent Nichols visited and blessed the school garden in Summer 2018. Future plans include the Livesimply steering group working on a new action plan after researching fresh ideas through the School Council. Fair Trade is likely to be developed more systematically over the coming year.
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