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A week at Pembroke House

Founded in 1885, Pembroke House is the College’s social action centre in Walworth, South London.

Jess Farmery (2013) spent last week volunteering at Pembroke House in order to help with various Christmas activities and this is a diary of her experience.

After spending a fantastic two weeks volunteering at Pembroke House in July, I couldn’t wait to return during the Christmas vacation. The office team and the other volunteers were so friendly and welcoming, and I felt that I really had a positive impact during my short but intense time there. I arrive in the morning, after catching the train from Oxford, and have a chat with the office team so that they can explain my projects for the week. In the afternoon I get to work on a re-design of the office and the tower room, thinking of furniture, layout, colours and how to create efficient storage space. Then it’s time to join the IntoUniversity team for Academic Support, which involves after-school homework and study sessions. It’s the secondary pupils today, and I help to run games and a quiz as it’s the last session before Christmas. In the evening I move into the Residency ­– the house next door, owned by Pembroke House – and I join the five other part-time volunteers to make dinner and eat together.


I walk the short distance into central London this morning for a job interview, exploring the quirky Borough Market and Docklands on the way. In the afternoon I continue my work in the office. I also create African drums with the children during primary academic support. In the evening I attend The Choir with No Name, a choir for the ex-homeless. I help set up, then to prepare and serve the meal during the final rehearsals for the Christmas concert.


I’m in the office this morning, sending emails and doing odd jobs. I help set up for the toddler group Pembroke Academy of Music group (aka Baby PAM), which is a session for carers and infants to sing nursery rhymes and socialise. Primary academic support runs again in the afternoon, with a different group of primary school children. Spirits are high for the end-of-term party! In the evening, students aged between 8 and 14 start to arrive for the senior PAM session. Some have individual music lessons and the others rehearse a children’s opera.


IntoUniversityMore work in the office this morning, but I’m not bored as there is plenty going on to keep me busy! I get to explore Walworth while on the hunt for a local printing company to print the annual report and I have fun in Lidl buying crackers for the Lunch Club Christmas lunch, which is happening today. When I get back to the office it is time to start cooking the meal – an exercise run with military levels of disclipine and precision by Chef John. It’s great to see the diverse and lively group of pensioners and staff enjoying the meal I helped to prepare, and everyone is very complimentary. By the time the meal is over there is just time for me to attend a briefing meeting with the IntoUniversity team about the workshops I will be helping them to deliver at a local school on Friday.

This morning I accompany the IntoUniversity team to All Saints ARK Academy, where we hold two workshops. The students who attend have been selected by their teachers as they believe that they have the potential to excel academically, yet need a confidence boost or a special opportunity to do so. The first workshop is with a group of Year 8 pupils, teaching them how to identify and manage unique learning styles. The second is with Year 7 students, and involves helping them to identify their personal qualities and skills, and the methods by which they are going to use and develop these to achieve their goals. It is rewarding to talk to the pupils about their aspirations, and help them to get the most out of and enjoy the sessions.

VolunteersAfter an intense morning I have a relaxed afternoon decorating the Pembroke House notice boards with photos from the barn dance which took place a few weeks ago. Later on, I am off on a bus to the South Bank Christmas Market, accompanying a group of students from the IntoUniversity mentoring scheme (which ‘buddies up’ school students with university students). The trip is good fun and we meet pupils and staff from other London IntoUniversity centers. I return exhausted but exhilarated, and my last night in the Residency is marked by another shared meal.


Sadly, today I must say goodbye to all my friends and colleagues at Pembroke House. The week has been such a valuable and enjoyable experience. Alongside a host of enhanced practical and inter-personal skills, I have developed qualities of leadership, planning, organisation and teaching. I have also learnt so much about Walworth, and from the diverse range of people I have met and worked with. It’s a real shame that I have to leave this morning; I feel like I still have so much more that I want to do and that there are so many more projects I want to get involved with. I guess I will just have to return during the next vacation…!

To find out more about Pembroke House, see their website or watch out for more posts on this blog in the new year.

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