Lending a helping hand
Volunteer work brings more than academic rewards
Posted: January 23, 2013
Recently published International Baccalaureate (IB) results showed a 96 percent pass rate for students of the Prague British School (PBS), a day school for children between the ages of 3 and 18 with locations in Prague 4 and Prague 6. Those students can now boast of more than just high scores: This year, students' volunteer work with the Klokánek Children's Home in Chodov, Prague 4, dubbed Project Klokánek, has been integrated into the studies of all IB students at the school.
"All of the credit has to go to the students for making this project work, as they are the ones who have planned and initiated it," says Matthew Williams, the school's IB Creativity Action Service coordinator. "We have been working with the Klokánek organization in Chodov for some years now, but this year we have seen the project take off. As a teacher, I feel it is very rewarding to see young people actively take responsibility in enriching the lives of others."
This year saw some additions to the Prague British School's IB curriculum: As part of the students' commitment and endeavor to gain a full IB diploma, they are now required to complete more than 150 hours of activities, and this includes service to the community. This is where Project Klokánek comes in.
According to Fraser Litster, admissions director of PBS, the students at the school have truly taken the project to heart, organizing a variety of activities and events for the children from Klokánek to participate in, like a Halloween disco and a fireworks night, both of which PBS hosted. Furthermore, the PBS students raised funds this year to enable all of the children from Klokánek to visit Prague Zoo. In addition to funding the excursion, a number of PBS students gave up their usual weekend activities to personally accompany the children for their day trip, and Litster says more events are scheduled for the remainder of the year.
"It is encouraging to see young people engage with others who are less fortunate than themselves and foster friendships with other children from different backgrounds," Williams says. "Many of our students now give up their evenings and weekends so they can spend time with the children at Klokánek."
For many students at Prague British School, this kind of hands-on volunteer work with those less fortunate than them was not only a new experience but also an eye-opening one.
"I never believed in NGOs," says Pavlína, a student at the school, "But after one of the girls called me 'Mom,' I immediately had tears in my eyes. I suddenly started feeling the pain that they felt every day. I realized how important it was to work with children from such disadvantaged backgrounds. It was an enlightening experience for me that I will never forget."
At the end of December, the PBS students organized a day-long Christmas party at the school for Klokánek's children, with fun, games, arts and crafts, and a pizza party, as well as traditional festive activities for all to enjoy. Williams says that more than 40 children from both PBS and Klokánek attended throughout the day, which helped strengthen the bond. Williams also says that, as the year came to a close, all the children from Klokánek received their "Christmas wish," as the whole school embarked on a Christmas collection. Each class donated a present to every child at Klokánek. More than 30 gifts were collected, along with a donation enabling Klokánek to purchase other gifts for the children.
Williams says the best aspect of Project Klokánek is that it engages all of the students at Prague British School. According to him, the IB students are the ones leading it and driving it forward, but all students can get involved in their own way. This year, for example, PBS's secondary school alone raised more than 50,000 Kč for Christmas presents for the children at Klokánek, while 23,900 Kč was raised by another group at the school. However, "the most valuable thing they can contribute is their time," Williams says.
Though volunteer work is now obligatory for each IB student looking to receive his or her diploma, not all students feel it is merely a requirement.
"Working with the Klokánek children was both an honor and a privilege for me," says James, an IB student at PBS. "I know we are all very fortunate to go to the school we go to and to live the lives we do. Therefore, it is also our duty to help these children who have lived incredibly hard lives."
Kasia Pilat can be reached at