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Youth & Philanthropy Initiative at Ross High School

This is the third time MMT has been chosen by a school group as their chosen charity for the Youth Philanthropy initiative. What is it? 

It's a national competition that requires school pupils to choose and familiarise themselves with a charity and its work, with a view to presenting the details of that charity and a particular project to a panel of judges. In each school there is a winning group and a prize of £3000 is awarded for the group to donate to their charity. 

The first school that chose MMT for this project was my son's school and indeed, he lead the presentation for his group. I am told that is why they didn't win - it is after all a charity founded and run by his mother and he is considered to be too close to the cause. If you like, an unfair advantage. Or maybe, he was just not very good! 

The second school to contact us about the YPI was a group of girls from Heriots in Edinburgh. They came to see us in our office in Musselburgh and we shared as much as we could about the work of the Trust in the time they had available. Unfortunately, they were also unsuccessful. 

So here we were this week with our third contender for this much coveted achievement and Anna and I were more determined than ever that we would give this group of boys from Ross High School in Tranent, as much support as we reasonably can to enable them to prepare their presentation. I have read that the successful pupil groups are the ones who really get 'under the skin' of the charity and its cause. I have recognised the need for the chosen charity to be seen to be supporting the local community and also, that a clear and tangible plan for the £3000 prize money will help the group in the success of their presentation. So our commitment on this occasion was huge. 

I appreciate that for some pupils this kind of project might take them out of their comfort zone - I am sure that is part of its purpose. Not everyone has natural presentation skills. Many young people have no understanding of charity at this stage in their lives and they come to this in blissful ignorance. Some pupils have no idea what they are doing and the challenge for charities is to make the most of the opportunity and steer the group through their subject without overwhelming them or making it over complicated, giving them a good story and a worth while project to support. Beyond that, it is really over to the pupils to take ownership of the task and make a good job of it. Clearly some can do this better than others and that is not at all a reflection on the boys at Ross High, it is just a general observation. 

So here are my top tips for pupils embarking on this challenge - 

  • Take the challenge seriously!
  • Be very clear of the reasons why you have selected your chosen charity
  • Visit the charity's website and be sure that your group has a sound understanding of what it is the charity does and why you have chosen to support it.
  • Know your deadlines.
  • Plan ahead and arrange to visit the charity well in advance of the deadlines set by your school and the YPI.
  • Meet the staff who work in the charity and if possible, ask to meet beneficiaries of the charity's work.
  • Prepare in advance for the meeting with the charity and have a list of questions you would like to ask, even provide questions in advance of your meeting for the charity to consider.
  • Take notes at the meeting and make the most of the time the charity is giving you.
  • Think about the presentation on the day and who will be leading that.
  • Consider the structure of the presentation so that like any story, it has a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • Present your presentation to the charity. They will provide constructive feedback. 

So the boys at Ross High School will be telling the judging panel about MMT's Epilepsy Alarm project, a project that has now been running for over 10 years. The Trust distributes potentially life saving epilepsy alarms to families struggling to cope with their child's difficult epilepsy. The alarm sits under the mattress of the bed and alerts parents to their child's seizure whilst sleeping. MMT has distributed over 3000 epilepsy alarms to families across the UK. We are the leading distributor of epilepsy alarms by a UK charity. We have never advertised but currently have a waiting list of over 400 families. There will be families in Tranent and the surrounding district on our list, waiting for an epilepsy alarm. The £3000 prize will provide six families with this potentially life saving technology that will immediately improve their quality of life and bring peace of mind and the return of long lost sleep to family members. By supporting this project the school is also raising awareness of epilepsy and it's challenges. 

It is a compelling story and we even provide an epilepsy alarm for the group to demonstrate. Good luck boys! I hope you managed to prepare your slide presentation for your Friday deadline and we will be thinking of you next Friday when you present MMT's story and our project to your judging panel.

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