Supporting an unusual East End museum

The Ragged School Museum was founded in 1990 to commemorate the history of “ragged” or free schools, established by Dr Barnardo in Victorian London. London’s Ragged Schools provided local, and often poor schoolchildren with a free basic education that subsequently gave them a greater opportunity to escape poverty. Today the Museum, which is housed in the original buildings of London’s largest Ragged School, hosts educational activities in authentic Victorian classrooms for thousands of schoolchildren every year.

XL Catlin has had a relationship with the Ragged School Museum dating all the way back to the first Global Day of Giving in 2006. Projects over the years have included building, painting, clearing out very old storage areas and deep cleaning.

“The setting of the school itself provides city-workers with a reality check,” notes Nigel Mort, the Project Leader. “Just a short distance from our offices, the museum is set alongside Regents Canal in Mile End, East London; an incredible juxtaposition to the lofty shiny office blocks of the City.”

Over the years the school has rented out the building for photo shoots to the likes of Vogue magazine, extended an invitation to First Lady, Michelle Obama, during a visit to London, and acted as a venue for ghost hunts as the Museum is reputedly haunted – something the volunteer team didn’t know about when they worked hard clearing out old furniture in the dark basement!

The size of the school and location means that they are able to accommodate large teams of volunteers on the Global Day of Giving - an attractive venue as managers take the opportunity of doubling the day to organize a team-building exercise. All of the project team, regardless of seniority, join in, donning rubber gloves and crawling around the floor scraping up trodden-in chewing gum for example!

Nigel adds that of particular interest during the Global Day of Giving projects is to witness school parties of children participating in an authentic Victorian schoolroom experience - where ‘teachers’ brandish a very long cane and (humorously) impose a ‘dunces’ cap on anyone not keeping up! The children love the immersive experience and schools usually re-visit for the unique learning opportunities the Museum offers.

“Leading any of the Ragged School projects has given me a great sense of satisfaction and pride,” says Nigel. “Their gratitude is infectious; so much so we now think of the school as almost an extension of XL Catlin. Colleagues come away not remembering their aching knees or backs, but the warm welcome and heartfelt thanks that the Ragged School Museum management conveys to us for our efforts – it is this that makes the museum a popular project year-on-year.”

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