After hearing about a national initiative to provide support bags for the homeless over the winter period, one kind-hearted St Helens student decided to take it upon himself to help out.
Despite having autism, meaning he often finds social interaction difficult, Andrew Duckworth, a student at Launchpad Tuition services for young people with complex and/or medical needs - based in the Beacon building - took over a school assembly to highlight the plight of the homeless and persuaded fellow students and staff to donate items for winter survival packs.
To help make it all happen, staff at Tuition Services temporarily altered the curriculum so that young people could become involved in the project, which involved contacting family, friends and local businesses for additional support - resulting in over 25 winter homeless packs, containing food and toiletries, being produced.
Pupils then worked alongside The Hope Centre, a St Helens based charity in Atherton Street that provides support for the homeless, to ensure the packs were distributed fairly.
Andrew said: “After hearing about the winter packs project on the news, I decided that I wanted to help out because it made me realise how fortunate I am, but I don’t think this would have been possible without the help and support from everyone at Launchpad Tuition.
“Launchpad Tuition Services has done a great deal for me, providing all the young people here - who are unable to access mainstream schools - with a safe haven, and helped us overcome issues we couldn’t cope with.
“To me, Tuition is not just a school, but a metaphor for a family. Since coming here, staff have helped me understand more about autism.
“As I love computers, I would like to describe it in this way - autism isn’t a hardware defect; it’s just a different operating system. I would like society to understand that people with learning difficulties should not be stereotyped as we are all able to excel at something, we just need help finding the light at the end of the tunnel. ”
Denise Clayton, head of Alternative Provision, added: “We are very proud of the way Andrew has led this project.
“Young people with complex needs often struggle to show empathy for others. The fact that Andrew has done this, shows how much the staff at Tuition have done to support his development.
"Alternative Provision is all about helping those young people who can’t cope in mainstream education to develop their whole self, this is another fantastic example of the work we do across the service”