Homeless people and struggling families will have a little more Christmas cheer this year thanks to the efforts of a caring Plantsbrook student and his schoolmates.
Just a few weeks ago Sixth Former Ben Songhurst, from Boldmere, came up with a plan to put together care parcels for the homeless, containing non-food items such as toiletries and new underwear.
And this week volunteers from the Food Bank at Sutton Coldfield Baptist Church visited Plantsbrook to pick up 65 individually-wrapped Christmas parcels after the entire school community responded to Ben’s appeal.
“Once we had let everyone know about the idea we had a brilliant response from right across the school,” Ben said, “younger students in years 7, 8 and 9 seemed to be really motivated by it and brought in loads of items.
“It has made me realise just how charitable everyone is, and how so many people are willing to help others even in a difficult year like this.”
The Food Bank will now be able to hand out 43 boxes that include items specifically aimed at men and 11 for women, each including everyday essentials such as toiletries and underwear, as well as facemasks and hand sanitiser.
“We also put together 11 larger boxes for families who might be struggling this Christmas,” Ben said, “which also contain a few festive items to like mince pies and crackers.”
The response to the appeal was so good that sixteen-year-old Ben ended up making more boxes than originally intended – and there are lots of items left over, which will also be donated to the Food Bank.
As well as the boxes, Ben’s efforts led to a fundraising non-uniform day at Plantsbrook last week, which resulted in more than £350 being donated to Birmingham homeless charity St Basils.
“The appeal spread to New Oscott Primary School too, where my mom works,” said Ben, who is studying Business, History and Sociology in Plantsbrook’s highly-regarded Sixth Form.
“They had a bake sale and collected donations, raising £200 which is being spent on children’s items like toys and underwear. It has been amazing how people reacted to the appeal.”
The parcels were put together by Ben with the help of friends Ellie Holmes, Amrita Dhutti and Tess Booker-Smallwood. Each parcel was even wrapped in Christmas paper and ribbon before being collected by the Food Bank.
“It has made me realise just how charitable everyone is, and how so many people are willing to help others even in a difficult
year like this,”
– ben songhurst
Plantsbrook’s Head of Sixth Form Lisa Proctor said: “We are so impressed by Ben, because this was entirely his idea, and it was his drive and determination that made it a success.
“He basically came into school one day and presented us with his idea and then went about making it happen.
“He really is so passionate about helping others that his enthusiasm spread around the school, which is why he had such a fantastic response.
“Ben said at the start he wanted to do it because so many people would already be struggling because of COVID, but I honestly believe he’s the kind of person who would have done it anyway, if there hadn’t been a pandemic.
“We are so proud of his achievement and how he got the whole school to come together to help,” she added.
Plantsbrook headteacher Tracy Campbell said: “We are very proud of our students and our school motto is ‘be the best that you can be’. Ben certainly lives up to that motto!”