Sailors from the Royal Navy frigate HMS Northumberland presented funds raised while on patrol at sea to a children’s riding school
Holly Toms, 8, the daughter of Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Danny Toms from HMS Northumberland presented the funds to the Elisabeth Svensden Trust for Children & Donkeys.
Holly, of Widey Court Primary School in Plymouth, joined fellow pupils from the school to hand over the money raised by the ship on completion of their eight-month deployment last year raised by collecting all unwanted small change in currencies left over from all of the places visited by the ship whilst deployed.
The trust is a free service at Ivybridge, near Plymouth, relying on charitable donations. Children with any extra learning needs can learn to ride and look after donkeys. Interaction with the animals by these children can be extremely therapeutic and Widey Court Primary School have been visiting the centre for the last few months.
CPO Toms said: “The trust is a good thing for the ship to support, to help the children. The school also has a large number of families whose members serve in the Armed Forces which means we are also helping colleagues.”
Widey Court has the second largest number of children from Armed Forces (or Service) families of any primary school in Plymouth, and recognises the extra support they need because of the periods of separation due to deployments and other duties away from home.
The school is one of a network which has a group called Her Majesty’s Schools Heroes (HMS Heroes) which is a ‘pupil-voice’ group formed in the City of Plymouth, by the Local Education Authority’s Plymouth Services for Children and Young People, for the support of Service children and young people. This group works to ensure every child has a voice that is listened to for the benefit of all. Members of HMS Heroes are Plymouth’s ambassadors and young advocates for Service families. Most importantly, they are friends for each other, especially in times of need.
HMS Heroes was formed in 2010 using a grant and began as a pilot group with invited schools. Ten schools now take part and this network is growing. The group meets monthly, at a range of venues, including schools, military establishments..
The agenda varies as the children (aged eight-14) take the lead. The Royal British Legion has donated display boards and maps for every school. Among the HMS Heroes achievements and activities are the design of a school passport and their own logo, the challenging of their local councilor and questioning of their local MP. They have also taken part in the nationwide March for Honour event, Remembrance Sunday and Plymouth Blitz 70th-year commemorations. They have been invited to the Plymouth Lord Mayor’s parlour to give a presentation about their work in May.
Activities are now focusing on supporting each other through the challenges that accompany friends and families deployed to Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 14 or Operation Cougar11. In addition, they have been boosted by being awarded sponsorship for their own standard and are planning a dedication ceremony.
Plymouth Heroes will now be extended to include a senior 15+ group and working to secure possible ‘Mini -Heroes’ status for the younger children.