13.05.2024 Educator Insights Student Success Story

Buffini Chao and First Give visit to Co-op Academy Stoke-on-Trent 

In May, First Give Director, Isaac Jones, and Buffini Chao Foundation trustee Sue Gutierrez were lucky enough to sit on the panel for the Final of the Co-op Academy Stoke-on-Trent 2024 First Give programme. The school has been a First Give partner for 2 years now and serves a diverse community. It is a shared objective of First Give and Buffini Chao Foundation to create more opportunities for young people of all backgrounds to gain the benefits of volunteering and giving. It is especially important to provide these opportunities for young people from lower socio-economic circumstances as they are less likely to take part in social action.  

All First Give Finals are special, but this event felt like a real achievement and a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the commitment, passion and hard work that the students put into the programme. 

Ten groups, representing the ten forms from Year 8, stood up in front of a room full of their parents, carers, peers and teachers to explain their projects. From the early stages of First Give, students are given ownership of what issues they want to focus on and the charities they think it important to support. The presentations therefore gave the judging panel insights into what really matters to these young people, and the range of social issues and charities represented was vast.  

As the event progressed, the panel heard about the work of Savana – a small, charity local to Stoke that supports survivors of sexual abuse; the Right Stuff Project – who use boxing as a way of supporting young people to develop discipline and emotional control; and the Macari Foundation – providing accommodation, food, and support for homeless people, to name but a few.  

But the First Give programme also asks young people to take action to support their charity themselves. One of the tutors at the school told us;

One of the wonderful things about First Give is that our students are given responsibility to do something. Quite often at their age, they’re just told what to do. But to be given ownership, it gave them a drive and the confidence to run with it. 

Sue Gutierrez of the Buffini Chao Foundation also reflected on the social action that Year 8 had completed;

What has been amazing at this Final is hearing about the wide range of social action: from the ever-popular bake sale to an art installation, charity football match, litter-picking and even a podcast! The creativity of the ideas and the impact that students had through their work were impressive.

At every First Give Final, we donate a grant of £1,000 to the charity chosen by the group who deliver the best presentation and complete the most creative and impactful social action. After a tough deliberation the panel of judges decided that the winning class were the group who supported Stoke on Trent Foodbank. They had impressed in a number of ways. First of all their passion and their commitment to their chosen charity was evident. It was clear that the whole class were involved and had engaged with the social action project. We spoke to Caroline Wolfe from Stoke Foodbank about what the students had done: 

We’re very fortunate that we’re able to offer schools a visit where they can go to their nearest distribution centre, speak to the people who are giving out the food, speak to people who’ve used the foodbank themselves and hear about the different parcels we prepare.  And these students also came to the warehouse and saw the scale of the operation. And they actually got to do the hands on volunteering – sorting and dating the food for us – and that’s so important. We get amazing donations, but if we don’t get it sorted and out to the centres then it’s for nothing. Through their volunteering they had a meaningful contribution to the work we’re doing.

Across the year group, students had also fundraised almost £500 to support their chosen charities – the impact of these funds, on top of the volunteering and awareness raising that students had completed should not be underestimated. 

But the impact of the First Give programme is not limited to the charities chosen by young people. Students themselves gain in a range of ways. We know from the World Happiness Report 2019 that practicing generosity is a powerful way to improve wellbeing. In addition, students who take part in the First Give programme develop and improve their skills in teamworking, presenting and leadership. However, for the school, the real impact was on the relationships in school and the confidence of their students. Lead teacher, Olivia Williamson told us

First Give really has had a transformational impact on the relationships between classes, between students and their tutors and on students’ confidence – absolutely undeniably.

The event was a celebration of the students and their passion for their community. First Give would like to extend its gratitude to the Buffini Chao Foundation who supported the programme here at the Co-operative Academy.