12 ‘good news’ stories from Downe House

We have been overwhelmed by the good news stories of compassion and creativity within our School community during Covid-19. Here are just twelve examples of how girls and their families, staff and alumnae around the globe continue to support charities at a local, national and international level in wonderful ways.

22 May 2020

Mrs McKendrick began the Summer term with a challenge for the whole School community to stay outward-looking.

We want to try and focus on service this term and how we can give back to others.

Here are just some inspiring and creative good news stories of how our whole School community is rising to this challenge at both a very local and wider international level. How will you be inspired to be outward-looking?

1) Arella’s virtual mufti day

On Thursday 7 May, Arella in the Upper Sixth organised our first ever virtual mufti day in aid of Kangemi Church School Kindergarten. The theme was ‘wacky fancy dress’ and the money raised supports the kindergarten where Arella, who lives in Kenya, volunteers which is based in the slums of Nairobi. The money will go towards vital education resources like pens and paper as well as sanitation like clean water and toilets. Arella’s aim was to raise £500 and the whole School came together to raise over £1000 for the kindergarten. This is definitely good news to be celebrated!


2) Margaret climbs Highlands mountain in stairs

I had no idea that a flight of stairs could make so much money for charity


On Sunday 12 April 2020, 90-year-old Downe House alumna, Margaret Payne (DH 1947) began her 282 staircase climbs for charity. This climb will be the equivalent of the Highlands mountain Suilven – 731m (2,398ft) which Margaret first summited aged 15 in 1944 after being evacuated to Lochinver during World War II.

Margaret initially planned for the challenge to take her two months. However, as Margaret has continued to climb, she has increased her daily average of stairs, from three to five flights per day, and she is hoping to reach the summit and commence the celebrations in mid-June. You can follow Margaret’s progress on Instagram – @MargaretsMountainClimb.

Margaret and her family were inspired by the good news story of 100-year-old Sir Captain Tom Moore’s incredible fundraising efforts walking 100 lengths of his garden and Margaret decided to do what she could to support the local and national healthcare services. This is a particularly personal challenge for Margaret, who raises money in gratitude for the NHS staff who helped take care of her late husband Jim, who passed away on Christmas Day last year.

The key instigator of the fundraising campaign is Margaret’s daughter, Nichola McArthur (Payne DH 1972), who is a proud resident of New Zealand but who has been in the Scottish Highlands during lockdown. In solidarity with her mother, Nichola is using the staircase in Scotland to climb Ama Dablam, Nepal after reaching its basecamp in late 2019.

It is impossible not to be inspired by Margaret and her family who are raising money for a number of charities including NHS Charities Together, the RNLI and Highland Hospice.

“I am completely overwhelmed and humbled by the generosity of everyone who has donated to this amazing cause. I would like to thank each and every one for their heart-warming messages of support and generous donations, which are providing greatly appreciated encouragement as I, slowly but surely, make my way up the mountain. I am very much looking forward to enjoying a good rest at the summit, and celebrating with my family and chosen charities.”

When asked if Margaret had a specific message for Downe House, she said:

The great thing in life is to be a giver not a taker.



Photo and video credit: Nichola McArthur

3) OSCAR Foundation

We heard from the OSCAR Foundation about the extreme challenges facing the families and young people they work with from low-income communities in India during lockdown. We were proud to welcome and host their U17 girls football team in October 2018 and our girls put together a video to encourage us to support their emergency COVID-19 appeal. Even just £1 can feed a family of five for a day. Together we can really make a difference.

Shortly after we shared our appeal video we were delighted to receive a message back OSCAR and the young people in the Mumbai slums!


4) Flo’s Move and Groove

We were delighted to hear the good news story that alumna Flo Dowler (DH 2014) (Instagram: @go.with.the.flo__) is bringing her local community together and putting smiles on people’s faces with her 80s-themed street workout on her road in Fulham. This feel good story has caught the attention of the national press and we can see why! Flo is using her platform to raise money for the National Emergencies Trust and you can donate here.



Photo credit: Reuters

5) ‘Make a Gift’ project

During these times when we are all isolated in our homes, we would like to ensure that our older alumnae are supported as much as possible, particularly those who are currently in care homes unable to have visits from family and friends. We launched our ‘Make a Gift’ for our older alumnae project as a way of giving back to our wider community. Members of the Remove and Lower Fourth have shared their time and creativity to make gifts (a piece of art, a letter, a card or something similar). Mrs McKendrick has already begun to send them out some of our very elderly alumnae who live alone.These gifts are hugely valued and ensure that the alumnae know that the School community is thinking of them.

6) Bella’s happy rocks for heroes

We were delighted to support Bella in Lower Sixth who has been painting colourful rocks with positive messages and leaving them on walks in her local area. She is encouraging others to do the same and donate money to support the NHS and Childline:

I would love to see lots of Happy Rocks along footpaths and will keep painting them too!”


7) 2.6 challenge

On Sunday 26 April, lots of members of our School community took part in the 2.6 challenge. It should have been the day of the London Marathon and the challenge was to think of an activity based around the numbers 2.6 or 26. We saw staff and girls doing everything from running, walking and cycling to trampolining, nerf gun shooting and staircase climbing the equivalent of Scafell pike! Well done to all our girls, staff, parents and wider School community who took part in the 2.6 challenge! Your efforts have helped raise £10 million for UK charities!

8) Global Ambassadors’ around the world relay

From 25 May for two weeks the HEGI Global Ambassadors’ Team, comprising ten Global Ambassadors and four members of staff, will run, walk or cycle a collective distance of 100km in a relay from around the world to raise funds this for the International Rescue Committee. The team wants to help countries round the world who are struggling with Covid-19 and do not have the resources or health systems to deal with it. The IRC is a charity that helps deliver healthcare and equipment to people in less-developed countries that are most in need during the Covid-19 outbreak. You can support their relay here.


9) Sasha’s embroidery for the NHS

Upper Sixth student Sasha has started a clothing brand business on Instagram called @sewmanydesigns where she sells handmade embroidered clothes. All of the profits from her business are going to the NHS Charities Together.

View this post on Instagram



A post shared by sasha PD – Designs (@sewmanydesigns) on

10) Katie and Kirsty’s charity album

On 1 May 2020, Downe House alumnae Katie and Kirsty (DH 2019) decided to take action whilst key workers went out of their homes everyday and risked their lives.

“We thought hard about how we could create some positivity amidst all the anxiety and heaviness of the current situation.

Music brings people together and now is a time where we need to come together more than ever, even when physically we are apart. We decided to put together an album. For us personally, music makes us feel better and if this project can put a smile on people’s faces whilst also raising money for this heroic cause, it would be an honour to make it happen.

The album itself is to be made up of various covers of well known and loved songs, ranging from solos to mass choir performances.

NHS staff and volunteers are doing amazing work right now in caring for COVID-19 patients. Together, let’s show our respect and gratitude as they work tirelessly in the face of the virus. It’s our turn to make sure we look after them, to ensure they can keep doing their vital work.

In the current situation NHS workers are real life superheroes. So let’s come together and show how grateful we are.”


11) Housing key workers

We were delighted to be able to open up York East in order to house a number of Key Workers from Prior’s Court School so that they are able to continue in their roles and provide the all-important continuity of care that these young people need. The Prior’s Court staff are doing an incredible job ensuring the young people remain healthy and happy. A huge thank you to Karen and Julie from our Housekeeping team as well as our Caretakers and Estates team who ensured everything was ready for our guests.

Every donation to our neighbours at Prior’s Court helps build a future for a young person with severe autism. You can find out more and support them here.


12) IT team 3d print PPE for local organisations

The Downe House IT team have been using the 3D printers at School continuously to produce more vital PPE that is needed so desperately across many different charities and organisations. Looking locally, we were delighted to provide Argyles Care Home in Newbury with 30 face shields for their frontline staff. The team has also been able to support Newbury-based charity Interakt Community, by sending 10 face shields so that staff there can continue to offer creative opportunities to youngsters and adults who face physical and sensory challenges.

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