Year 9 Students from St George’s Church of England Foundation School recently attended a very poignant and emotional assembly involving a number of organisations and charities.

The assembly, brought together by Neil Butcher, from Trading Standards, and School Nurse, Carol Salter, was organised to highlight the dangers of alcoholism and the support that is available for young people and their families.

Organisations involved in delivering the assembly included The Community Alcohol Partnership (CAP), Addaction, Kent Fire & Rescue Service, Pie Factory Music and Educational Life, but the main focus was an inspirational young man called Henry Maybury and his mother, Sally.

Henry is a successful singer/songwriter who has had millions of views on his YouTube channel, but there is a heartbreaking, and very personal story behind his music. On February 22nd 2013, Henry lost his 29 year-old brother Tom to alcohol addiction after a battle lasting several years. Henry wrote the song ‘Lost Days’ in memory of his brother and, recognising that multiple charities and support groups had helped Tom, wanted to give something back by giving 100% of the proceeds from the sale of the song to charity. Rather than give the money to a single charity, the ‘Lost Days Charitable Trust’ was set up . Alongside Henry and his Mum, a special committee was set up to allocate funds to multiple Addiction and Recovery charities globally. ​

Henry’s moving acoustic performance

Henry’s presentation to the young students in the audience was very poignant and emotional. Some students cried, and others sat completely transfixed, as he described his experiences of alcoholism and its effects upon his family. The presentation included videos of his songs “Lost Days” and “You’re Beautiful” as well as some fond, fun memories Henry had of his brother growing up. The students were then treated to a live, acoustic performance which was listened to with so much respect, then greeted with a huge round of applause as Henry finished his presentation.

Henry then introduced his mum, Sally, who also spoke about her own loss and how it affected her, before explaining to the students how the charity was now helping those in a similar situation. Sally also talked of her pride in Henry who’d had his own battles as a young teenager, having been struck down at the age of 14 with a debilitating illness, spending years in and out of treatment to ease the pain from the resulting arthritis.

As well as travelling around schools, sharing this powerful and moving story, Henry also tours prisons, where he performs and talks to the prisoners, trying to give them hope to go out into society, succeed and stay clean. He truly is an inspiration, and this was evident by the response he received from the youngsters in the audience.

The next speaker at the assembly was Alan Faulkner, from Kent Fire and Rescue Road Safety Experience. Alan is a hugely experienced member of his team who has worked in schools for a long time now, delivering safety talks from the perspective of his role in Kent Fire and Rescue. Alan spoke with the students about the unflinching nature of his role and how alcohol is often the root cause of accidents he and his colleagues attend. Alan explained about the work that the Road Safety Experience does to engage with young people and how it hopes to cut down the number of incidents occurring on our roads.

Gillian Powell, from CAP

Next up in this informative assembly was Gillian Powell, the Community Alcohol Partnership‘s Programme Manager, who runs the scheme in the South East. Gillian explained a little about her role within CAP before presenting several of St George’s Year 11 Ambassadors with their certificates. These young Ambassadors will now become peer mentors, able to offer help and advice to others in the school who may be experiencing issues. They will also help to spread the word about the risks of underage drinking.

Following on from Gillian was Aiden Kay, from Addaction. Addaction are an organisation which supports adults, children, young adults and older people to make positive behavioural changes in their lives, whether with alcohol, drugs, or mental health and well-being. Their focus for this assembly was how alcohol related companies target their branding towards young people. This was effectively proven through an interactive quiz where the students were asked to ‘Name That Brand’ as a logo was gradually revealed on the large screen. It was surprising how any of the youngsters were quickly able to name alcoholic drink brands with just a glimpse of the label, especially when you consider they are all another four years away from buying the products legally. Even more shocking was the fact that the one logo they struggled to name quickly, was Cadbury.

Zoe, Pie Factory Music

The last two organisations to contribute to this assembly were Pie Factory Music and Educational Life. Firstly, I was given the opportunity to speak with the students about the importance of positive news stories and how Educational Life are ensuring that young people are given a platform to be heard. The consensus was overwhelming as a show of hands demonstrated that these students were being subjected to far too many negative stories about their generation. Zoe, from Pie Factory Music then spoke with the students about the role her organisation has, engaging with young people through music production and performance.

As the assembly ended, the young year 9 students applauded as Henry came back to the centre of the stage, and rightfully so. His story clearly resonated with everyone there.

As the youngsters returned to their lessons, you could hear them discussing what they’d just heard. Some remained behind to speak individually with the morning’s speakers … some to thank them, some to ask specific, pertinent questions.

I would like to take this opportunity to praise every single year 9 student present for this assembly. It was a long time to be seated and quiet but the managed to remain engaged, thoughtful and respectful throughout. I see these young people and it gives me great hope for the future. They were a credit to their school , their parents and to themselves throughout, what was at times, a very difficult and emotional assembly.

Thank you to everyone attending this special assembly, and thank you to St George’s for allowing us to all visit. A very special mention, however, must go to Henry and Sally. Your extremely personal story has resonated with so many that have heard it and your strength and determination to help others is truly inspirational. Thank you.

If you would like to read more about any of the organisations mentioned in this article, here are some links to their websites …

http://www.henrymaybury.com/home.html

http://www.kent.fire-uk.org/your-safety/road-safety/road-safety-experience/

http://www.communityalcoholpartnerships.co.uk/

https://www.addaction.org.uk/

Please take a look through our gallery of the assembly and feel free to share this article with anyone who may be interested.