The Pro Bono society has been taking student volunteers for several years to visit local schools and educate children about human rights and the justice system. This year I applied to be part of the scheme as I was excited to work with an outreach project in the local community; plus, my CV was looking a little lacklustre. I didn’t realise how far-reaching and inspiring the trip would be, not only for myself, but for everyone involved.
After bundling a large group of us onto a couple of mini buses, we took the journey to Nottingham Academy. There was a great atmosphere amongst us volunteers and we were keen to meet the kids and make an impact on the classes.
It was an afternoon full of fun role plays, brainstorming sessions and interactive activities to engage the class in how the government protects their rights and interests. The session covered bullying, applying both the rights in the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
The children were so creative and inspiring in their approach to the tasks. Anthony Killeen, Head of ‘Aspire’, who single-handedly organises the events, encouraged us to address the bright and innovative class in an intellectual manner to best engage them with the topics covered. I was astonished by how quickly the kids grasped the concepts and responded to the session. We all felt very accomplished in our aim to raise awareness about justice and the opportunities available at university.
I really enjoyed the experience because I felt we truly contributed to opening the eyes of the class to their future options. Many of them were hugely excited for our next visit and asked many questions about university life. “Can you really leave class early if you already understand the topics?” one of the youngsters asked, wide eyed in wonder. Of course, a lot of them focused on the advantages of staying up late and living away from home. But it was clear that they understood what a law degree could offer them, and a few of the pupils were so enthusiastic that they declared their intention to apply to Nottingham to study law.
All in all, it was a great day on a number of counts. The children were an absolute joy to work with, as were the other volunteers and it was fantastic to be able to see the direct impact of our involvement. The kids walked away with a greater understanding of law, their own rights and of what student life is like. And we achieved all of this in just an hour and a half!
Pro Bono society also offers other outreach projects which you can get involved in. Unbarred, a unique scheme which involves visits to prisons and sessions which aim to provide prisoners with vital legal advice. Furthermore, you have the opportunity to engage in the OUTLAW scheme which primarily targets sixth form students considering university.
I think it’s safe to say I’ll be applying to be involved with ‘Aspire’ again, and I would recommend all of you to do so too.