Written by ASL parent Patricia Dhar P ’22 ’22 ’22
“As the sun rose high above the hidden autumn trees of Three Acres, a flurry of excited ASL volunteers swarmed the site, ready to tackle any project. To the same upbeat tune that reverberated from small black speakers, they each grabbed a paintbrush in one hand, rake in the other, and immediately began working on their assigned tasks,” described student leader Laura ’20. After three hours of collaboration and hard work, the result was a cheery, spruced-up center at this community play project.
On Sunday, 27 October, Three Acres was just one of 13 central and north London charities for which approximately 400 ASL volunteers—students, parents, faculty and friends—donated their time, brawn and enthusiasm on ASL’s Community Service Day (CSD).
The scores of volunteers, age 2 to 72 years old, gathered at ASL to kick off the day and to witness the breadth and depth of ASL’s community involvement. A tradition that began 14 years ago has now become part of the fabric of ASL life.
To start the morning, Laura ’20 and Talia ’20 spoke about their experiences in preparing for the day. “Community Service Day is the amalgamation of weeks of diligent organization and planning from both students and parents,” explained Talia.
“It allows a new generation of leaders to perpetuate change in their communities,” Laura added.
CSD coordinators Roni Fransis P ’26 ’30 and Gisele Caseiras P ’26 ’29, and Head of School Robin Appleby, welcomed the volunteers and set the tone for the day. The introduction ended with a film directed and edited by Gigi P ’22, featuring four community partners describing the impact CSD has made on their grassroots programs.
Strangers and familiar faces came together to bond quickly as a team. The volunteers set out to their respective sites, ranging from eldercare centers to homeless shelters to community centers. They embarked on painting, organizing, making and raking together. One parent volunteer explained, “It was a great experience for not only my child but also for me. I felt like I did my part for the community. I’m coming back every year!”
ASL coach Erik Brucker, who volunteered at PACE West Hampstead, exclaimed, “It was amazing watching everyone work together. And I think we really made a difference here. It was a really rewarding experience for everyone.”
Ingie ’21 reflected on her experience, saying, “It was meaningful because we were able to help our community. Sometimes, ASL students can get stuck in their bubble, so it was fun to get away from what we are used to.”
What can be rewarding is to observe the reaction the next day. Ann Marie Cascarino P ’20, a site leader at SJW Adventure Hub said, “The staff and the kids were so excited with the changes. They could really see the difference. They commented that there seems to be more light in the playground and it feels brighter.”
Perhaps that is the objective of the day. To make the world a little brighter.
Doorstep Homeless Families Project
Doorstep is a center that connects and supports families who are in temporary housing. They organize donations of food and clothing as well as offer after-school homework help and play. ASL volunteers organized food distributions, repainted railings, laid concrete slabs to widen a pathway, cleaned and potted plants, and painted benches (including one dedicated to an ASL mother who sat on the board of Doorstep when CSD began).
England’s Lane is a hostel for single, homeless people—mostly single mothers. The task was to create a play space for the 40+ children living there. Volunteers transformed a bedroom into a playroom for the babies, toddlers and young children living in the hostel. This is the only play area that they have in the residence. The work included painting, cleaning, and bringing in new equipment, books and toys. “The transformation was amazing and the reaction heart-warming,” exuded Roni Fransis.
Kentish Town City Farm
At Kentish Town City Farm, there were two shifts. Volunteers from the Cub Scouts and members of the ASL cross country and development crew teams helped set up for the Apple Day Festival in the morning, and then an afternoon shift took over to run the game and crafts booths. They put together a range of activities such as face painting, arts and crafts, games and apple sales. The apple cart alone made £180, and altogether the festival raised £2,800 for the operational costs of the farm. Kentish Town City Farm is a free farm in the city where children and adults can get a taste of farm life without going to the countryside. It has amazing educational benefits and volunteer opportunities for teens in the area. Student leader Katy ’22 explained, “They recently lost their funding from the city council, so this money raised is so important in keeping the animals fed and the farm running for everyone to enjoy.”
Marie Curie Hospice
The Marie Curie hospice is located in North London and one of the original ASL community partners from 2005. Volunteers helped complete large jobs in the garden that provide comfort and sanctuary to terminally ill patients and their families.
Play Adventure and Community Enrichment (PACE) Fairfield
PACE in Camden is an after-school program, which gives children a safe place to play after school and during holidays. More than 40 volunteers at this site painted, weeded, raked, cleaned, organized, installed basketball hoops, and even constructed an outdoor play stage!
Play Adventure and Community Enrichment (PACE) Fortune Green
No small task went undone or unnoticed at PACE in West Hampstead, and “Christmas has come early to PACE!” mentioned one volunteer.
Volunteers organized and cleaned out the games room, and did some heavy-duty gardening in the play areas. An immaculate games room, a cleaned-up playground and soccer pitch, and dozens of garbage bags full of debris and weeds, were the result of the efforts of 37 dedicated volunteers. “It was an amazing experience to help these kids out and make this place look better. I would certainly recommend it in the future,” said volunteer Piers ’22.
”I’m a bit of a cleaning freak, but to see so many people getting involved and doing the cleaning both outside and inside has been a wonderful thing,” said PACE center manager Keith Davidson. “It was rewarding to see the end result. We were very proud of the work that everyone did.”
Penfold Community Hub
The Penfold Community Hub, which provides education and socialization for the elderly community, received a welcome facelift. More than 20 volunteers gardened, organized and built new shelves for this center.
SJW Adventure Hub
At SJW Adventure Hub, 27 volunteers and “one adorable dog” pitched in to repaint walls, do some gardening and upgrade the indoor and outdoor play spaces. Student leaders commented, “All contributed with high spirits and an amazing drive to make a difference.”
SJW Care Centre
The St. John’s Wood Care Center is a home for elderly people who need help owing to various medical conditions. “We colored, read magazines and newspapers, chatted, and even enjoyed petting a bunny with the residents. After our time with them, we all noticed that the residents had smiles on their faces. It was a lesson for all of us that even small acts, no matter how simple they seem to us, can mean the world to others,” said Andrea ’21.
Making the St. John’s Hospice a more comfortable and more beautiful space was the goal for this team, by gardening and organizing the outdoor space.
Soup Kitchen at The American International Church
The Soup Kitchen at The American International Church received a makeover as the volunteers created a mural, cleaned and organized the kitchen, planted herbs in the garden and varnished and painted tables, benches, windowsills and even garbage cans!
Three Acres is a community play project in Belsize Park that provides a range of recreational services for children at risk. This Community Service Day, National Honor Society students were joined by other volunteers to complete a variety of jobs, including raking out leaves, repainting the building’s windows and walls, and planting flowers and bulbs around the site.
The Winch is a community center that caters to families in need. The center offers parent courses, childcare and career counseling. Volunteers dusted and cleaned, and organized the kitchen, basement and play area.
The ASL Community Action Program provides a foundation for students to become motivated, outstanding citizens who are proud to positively contribute to society. Supporting this and leading by example, PCA Community Service helps foster and provide opportunities for our students, families and the entire community to find fulfillment, passion and purpose while helping others with kindness.