The Wellington Community Spirit

“My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” So says the eponymous hero of the 1994 film, Forrest Gump, played brilliantly by the versatile and multiple award-winning actor Tom Hanks. As we enter the month of March and reflect upon the first two months of 2020, these words seem particularly apt. We have just lived through the wettest February in recorded history courtesy of Ciara, Dennis and Jorge; and the world continues to respond to ongoing challenges posed by the spread of COVID-19, with the number of cases in the UK reaching 36. By the time you read this, I suspect that number will have increased.

If you had asked me at the end of the Michaelmas Term what I envisaged spending most of my time on in the new year, I would not have said coordinating the College’s response to a global pandemic caused by bats entering wet markets of central China!

But it is when we are in difficult circumstances that communities truly rally round and the indomitable spirit which so often characterises the human condition comes to the fore. It is a spirit which has been seen across the Wellington family of schools over the past few weeks where our shared values have seen some remarkable acts of kindness. Wellington College Bangkok has opened its doors to a numbers of pupils from various Wellington College schools in China in order to allow their education to continue uninterrupted. In China itself, although our sister schools remain closed for the time being, teaching and curriculum progress continue via a number of different e-learning platforms.

Even here in the UK, we have been moved by the number of parents who have contacted the College offering to host an overseas pupil for the Easter who cannot travel home. We are truly grateful for these kind offers and, as you know, we are currently completing an audit of all the travel plans of our examination year groups in order to plan ahead for the forthcoming holidays. The situation is, of course, changing regularly and we will continue to update the Wellington Community with any developments or changes to our policy as and when they occur.

This remarkable sense of spirit and rallying round is not just seen when the chips are down; it is also evident in the regular charitable endeavours which are undertaken within the Wellington Community, and I hope you will forgive me for highlighting three initiatives which have crossed my desk in the past few days.

On Friday many members of the Wellington cricketing community came together in a remarkable evening at Lord’s to raise awareness for the Ruth Strauss Foundation. The foundation, created by Wellington parent Sir Andrew Strauss in memory of his wife Ruth, aims to aid research into ‘Fighting the lung cancers you don’t hear about – and Supporting the suffering you don’t see’. Guests of honour were Sir Andrew, and the three Curran brothers, Tom, Ben and Sam who themselves have had to show remarkable resilience to overcome personal tragedy. What stood out above all else was not just the spirit of generosity in the room, but the astonishing levels of mutual support and help that the Wellington family gives so readily.

In a similar vein, Will Greenwood is about to undertake an extraordinary coast-to-coast trek across Costa Rica to support the charity Borne, which funds research into the prevention of pre-term death. Please do visit his JustGiving page to learn more about Borne and the challenge that lies ahead for Will. But when it comes to serious challenges, then perhaps there is no tougher one than that which faces our very own David Lofthouse, who has set himself the goal of completing the Kingsley’s at the end of term to draw attention to his campaign to raise £70,000 to fund Dorsal Rhizotomy Surgery for a person, like himself, with cerebral palsy. Those of us who are lucky enough to know David, and see the courage with which he has tackled every school day at Wellington since he started in the Picton three years ago, are under no illusions as to the scale of the challenge (which he estimates will take him 18 hours) – but will be cheering him on every hard-fought step of the way.

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