Humbled by Harvest

The tradition of harvest in the UK is rooted in the ancient Llamas Day celebrations where farmers offered up the first cut sheaf of corn, believed to hold the spirit of the harvest, and made a bread that was used in the churches and monasteries to give thanks for the forthcoming harvest. In modern times, harvest has moved to the end of the harvest period and is celebrated in late September.

Harvest time in school brings an opportunity to truly develop an understanding of giving and thanksgiving. The gift of generosity to our fellow is a powerful lesson for both children and adults alike.

Harvest allows us as occupants of a digital world to return to a time when communities celebrated key events together. Harvest was a time where the whole community chipped in. The children would enter the fields in the morning before school and help harvest the crops. Workers would use their holidays to help with the harvest.

My father was given additional days in his holiday allowance in the late 1940s to use in harvesting, where he would spend a long weekend travelling from London to Kent to pick hops and help in the farm, staying in small hop picking shacks.

Harvest through the eyes of the child is a deeply humbling experience for us as teachers, showing the purity of giving as children's generosity of gifts and spirit can show a deep message of giving devoid of the need to feel superior to those who are receiving.

Food Bank Harvest Donations

Harvest through the eyes of the parents can be a deeply valuable process. Inviting parents into harvest celebrations and giving space for their children to share their harvest experience can be both meaningful and life changing. 

For some parents, it is hearing the value of giving; whether it is giving time, money, thoughts and prayers. For other parents it is a way in which they can affirm their child's belief in values (yes I know the DFE would call these British Values but let us simply call them values here) that transcend cultures and communities and act to bind us together in a global community. For some parents, it will simply be an opportunity for them to build a stronger relationship between home and school as they enjoy a harvest assembly with their child.

Here are eight useful charitable links if you are thinking about a charity for harvest:

  1.  Boxing up gifts to send to children in Eastern Europe through Love in a Box initiative
  2. The brilliant UK charity Water Aid teaches us about the value of fresh water. 
  3. Shelter brings the message home about homelessness, local reps are always happy to visit schools to talk about their work and raise the profile of homelessness in the UK. 
  4. Foodbank UK is an awesome charity offering food vouchers supported by donations of produce, you may find you have a local food bank who would be willing to talk - this is a charity you can support throughout the year also with a regular collection point set up in school.
  5. Christian Aid offers support for vulnerable communities globally and often have a designated Harvest project with representatives in many communities who would be happy to visit schools.
  6. Send a Cow are a great charity that raise funds to put livestock into communities to enable them to build themselves from poverty.
  7. Save the Children also undertake great work globally to support children in poverty.
  8. Unicef have a children's section who cater for supporting children in global disasters.

Harvest and the traditions of our communities are to be treasured and provide us with an enriching opportunity to learn from the past and think about the present.  Have some fun with harvest this year and let the value of giving and thanksgiving play centre stage.

If Harvest Festival has inspired you to think about other ways you can give back, have a look at our blog on giving to others.

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