As a young girl in Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai demanded that girls be allowed to receive an education, and for her activism she was shot in the head by a Taliban gunman in 2012, but survived and went on to receive the Nobel peace prize. Greta Thunberg, the school girl from Sweden who, at the age of 15, began protesting about the need for immediate action to combat climate change has since become an outspoken climate activist. Mental health issues have also come to the fore in recent years, as increasing numbers of people have been prepared to speak up, including Prince Harry, about the challenges they face in dealing with the taboos surrounding this sensitive issue. It takes courage to speak out, to raise awareness and to take positive action to combat injustice, large or small, in pursuit of a better world. The Guardian newspaper ran an article in May 2018 entitled “Young people are angry: the teenage activists shaping our future” which championed the efforts of seven young people who believe passionately in a cause and, importantly, feel moved to do something about it.
Mill Hill has a long tradition of pupils standing up for what they believe in. In fact, it’s embedded in one of our Foundation aims and we actively seek to provide opportunities for pupils to express themselves, lead from the front and to take action to improve life for themselves, and for others, now and in the future. This spirit of proactivity has never been more evident then now. Wellbeing Week took place last week and was hugely successful. Pupils and staff enjoyed plenty of activities which allowed them to pause, relax and have some fun. The week came to an end with Unplugged on Tuesday evening; the event raised valuable funds for Mind, a charity which provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem and also campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. This once again reinforced Mill Hill’s commitment to challenging stigma, building character and resilience (there’s nothing more character-building than getting up on stage in front of an audience!), giving pupils the opportunity to lead as well as ensuring that mental health issues stay very firmly at the front of our minds as we seek to address rather than ignore them.
Our Eco Society, under the guidance of Miss Ivacson, have been working tirelessly over the course of this year to raise awareness of environmental issues and to encourage Millhillians to engage in the debate as well as taking small steps to reduce their carbon footprint. The recent UN report on biodiversity and ecosystem doesn’t make good reading and its release over the weekend fortuitously coincided with Eco Week at Mill Hill which concluded today with a Non-Uniform Day and Vegan Cake Sale. Throughout the week pupils from our dynamic Eco-Society have led our Chapel services. Chapel is an appropriate place to instil the values of “living mindfully”, to consider the impact of our own actions and to take responsibility for changing them where necessary. As well as presenting disturbing information and images, the pupils challenged us to consider in particular our misuse of plastics, paper and energy. Their words shook us from any complacency or eco-fatigue, and whilst acknowledging that as individuals we can only play a small part, together we can contribute towards eco-security in the future. It is inspiring that our young people are making their voices heard and taking the initiative to raise consciousness about the challenges that face our planet. The famous “Serenity Prayer” that the Chaplain used last week during our “Well Being Week” contains wise words which can help us move towards both personal well-being and the well-being of the planet.
‘Grant me the Serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
and Wisdom to know the difference.’