TopGreetings from London

It's a busy time of year. Art in Action is now under way here in the UK.  It has been another wonderful term here in London, with thriving first year philosophy and economics courses.  Meanwhile many students in Australia and New Zealand are attending major residential weeks in Perth, Sydney and Wellington.  

Go to Schoolinsight for back issues; all the photos are restored and articles can be read in full.

Very best wishes for the summer, 

Christine Lambie, Editor

Helping to fix a broken neighbourhood

Where rocks breathe

Art in Action
How to love your work

I n 1998, students in the School in Johannesburg started the JPU programme to serve local children in the area immediately around the School building. JPU or Jeppe Phakamisa Ubuntu, loosely translated means "Upliftment of Jeppe in the spirit of Oneness". Richard became involved in 2008 and now looks after the 9-11 year old boys and many of the activities.
JPU children show what they can do
JPU children show what they can do

Story1Serving the Greater Family

Richard Brayshaw


Jeppestown is a forgotten suburb of Johannesburg. It's run down, with old architecture, a mobile population, a lot of unemployment or, at best, migrant labour, drug abuse, child abuse and all sorts of social problems. This is where the School of Practical Philosophy finds itself, with St James Junior School across the street. ;


A couple of years after I started helping with JPU, I moved into the School house; that's when it became painfully obvious that there were all these problems out there.  It was literally close to home for me. I felt that something was required - this work needs to be done.


What does JPU do?

On Saturday afternoons, 100-120 children from the neighbourhood flock through the gates for JPU. The children are typically aged between 4-16 years. The afternoon is co-ordinated by a dedicated team of volunteers, most of whom are members of the Philosophy School, as well as guests who attend every now and then, to share their specific areas of interest with the children. Attendance is free.Volunteers are encouraged to share whatever they feel is of greatest value, based on their own interests, strengths and abilities. Art, mathematics, debating, music and physical fitness are but a few of these. At JPU the children benefit tremendously from adult attention. At state schools, the average class size is 50 and parents don't usually give much supervision either. So the attention of adult JPU volunteers is very effective.


So what's the aim?

JPU aims to provide a safe and nourishing environment for young people, to give a broader view of life, allowing them to make the most of the opportunities that life has to offer. We hope to show that they have choices and do not have to be trapped in any situation. It's to bridge the gap between the enthusiastic period of youth and the teenage pessimism leading to unemployment which all too often sets in.


What a bike can teach you

After a while, some children started to lose interest in the Saturday programme. So the first JPU cycling team was formed in 2008, which was comprised of 8 teenagers and 3 supervisors, with the focus being on road riding every Sunday morning.  The young people were encouraged to keep in shape, eat well, and learn about teamwork, punctuality and discipline.

After a few months of vigorous training, the team was ready for greater things, which culminated in the team participating in various long distance events, which included 5 successive Cape Argus Cycle Tours, an iconic 109 km event that takes place in Cape Town on an annual basis. With 35,000 riders, this is the biggest timed road race in the world.


In 2011, we made the move towards mountain biking and the team is now made up of 15 regulars, some of whom are the younger siblings of the original 2008 team members. The age group now ranges between 10-15. In the interests of growth and sustainability, we are now in the process of transferring some of the responsibilities involved with organising the weekly rides and one-off events to the team members themselves, hopefully with assistance from their parents and relatives. This is a slow process, but is something that needs to happen in order to make the cycling initiative into something sustainable in the long term.


Unfortunately, we suffered a break-in recently, resulting in the theft of 8 mountain bikes. In one way, this is a major setback, but it has also been something of an education for all of us, especially the children; it has driven home the fact that criminal activity has very direct and immediate consequences on the enjoyment of life. Needless to say, we are in the process of increasing our levels of security and will recover from the setback in good time.


Carpentry and Computers

The children involved in the Sunday cycling program have also begun learning carpentry and computers on Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. Some of JPU's storage space has been converted into a workshop, with half set aside for carpentry and the other half converted into a computer lab.On the carpentry side, the focus has


Richard watching a young carpenter

been on principles of design, the importance of measurement and the use of various tools. This led to the design and construction of a central workbench, followed by various pieces of furniture being built by some of the children for their own use.They have made various tables and there is also a violin under construction.


On the computer front, we currently have five computers at our disposal, four of which are Raspberry Pi's, running Linux. These are low-cost machines (£35 approx.), ideally suited for young people to learn the fundamentals of computer programming, using standard languages such as C and Python. This initiative is still in its infant stage, with plenty of scope for further development.One benefit of this is that it is teaching logical thought. To write a flow chart is to articulate thought very clearly.  It also presents possible career opportunities ahead.


At the end of a Saturday or Sunday, I usually feel energized. I enjoy working with children. When I walk down the street, most of the children recognize me, even those now in their 20s, who started with us years ago. It's a good feeling.

Top Tips: recommended by readers


1. The History of Philosophy without any Gaps.  Peter Adamson, Professor in Munich and KCL is producing 20 minute podcasts on the history of philosophy.  Subscribe or select episodes.  Highly recommended.  Go to HistPhil


2. TED talk. 
Dame Ellen MacArthur: 
The surprising thing I learned sailing solo around the world.  Out of her voyage, her understanding of the word 'finite' has led her to economics.


Yosemite is one of the United States' best-known national parks, covering over 1 million sq. miles.  It is remarkable for its granite cliffs, waterfalls, giant sequoia groves, lush meadows, teeming rivers and biodiversity.  Chris has been a philosophy student in San Francisco since 2005.  Professionally, she is trained as a geneticist and currently works as an information scientist for a bio-pharmaceutical company.  


Sacred Sites

Where Rocks Breathe: Yosemite

Dr Christine Olssen, San Francisco




In California, a sacred place is as close as your living room.  This place has been sacred to people for thousands of years.  So sacred, it prompted the government at the time to initiate the National Park system, and name it the first National Park in California.  This place is Yosemite.  I have been to Yosemite a number of times, always learning new things; it is a place where I studied evolution and geology.  I feel very lucky to have such a beautiful and eternal place so near to my home.


Here, in the summer, the air smells of warm Redwood.  The waters in the river glisten in the sunlight, the sound embracing, relaxing.  The cathedral of the sky sits on the mountains, towering majestically into the heavens, dwarfing all.  The water in the falls cascades down, crashing in the mist. The fog leads to feelings of timelessness, the world is primordial.


In autumn, leaves fall.  The river rises with passing rain.  The animals prepare for slumber.  The mountains stand timeless.  In winter, the snow blankets the earth, softening the world, quieting the noise.  In spring the flowers bloom, a riot of color.  The insects and birds sound the welcoming of the earth.  The river, cold with the melted snow, tumbles loudly, singing the awakening of the world with a deafening cacophony.  


And through these superficial changes as the seasons and years pass, there is unity.  Here, eternity is immanent.  Everyone is one - and one with everything.  Here, as you sit in the sunlight, on the rocks, watching the river, you can feel the rocks breathe - and you are one with that breath - as the sun warms your skin and you inhale the smell of the warm redwoods - watching the dragonflies play.


Here, whether it is in the meadows, the rivers, the towering mountains, or through the mist of a waterfall, here is where people make commitments to themselves, to each other, to nature and to the world.  People come to hear music, to dance, to sing  - loudly - full of joy.  Here, people come to meld and find peace.  


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Lily is the labrador puppy who lives with Donald Lambie, the leader of the School and his wife, the editor. Many people asked for more from Lily, so here she is again.
Letter from Lily

So here's a photo from one of my morning walks in Hyde Park.  Who says London dogs don't have fun?  I think all those horses were assembling for me.  To bark at. Or maybe it was rehearsing for the

Queen's state opening of parliament.  In any case, everyone who's anyone is in Hyde Park in the mornings. There are swimmers too - actually I'm one of them.  I just pretend I can't read the sign saying 'No Dogs in the Water'.  


I'm going to France this summer.  I'm already practising my French: Je m'appelle Lily.  I can't wait.  All those French rabbits and squirrels.  I'm told the French LOVE dogs.  I've got my passport now so I really can go anywhere.  I guess my People had to apply to the Home Office.  I hope they didn't do a crime check on me; there might be a large file on stolen picnics and other misdemeanours. 


Denver: never admit guilt

It's my birthday next week - I'll be two.  Trouble is, there's an assumption that once you're grown up, you'll be a good dog all the time.  Yeah, right.  My advice? When you've done something wrong, don't admit nuffink.

Bonnes vacances!

Love from Lily


Hilary (right) with 2 happy customers

An army of volunteers largely runs Art in Action.  From managing traffic and practical classes to serving gallons of tea, volunteers, including around 150 people from the public, work hard over several days.  One of the key departments is Site Hygiene, which includes maintaining the toilets for the 25,000 people. Although an unlikely area for initiative and artistry, Hilary and her team have worked hard to make even this, very special.  




How to Love your Work

Hilary Wyatt, London


Art in Action
Art in Action

As a youngster, my first Art in Action was spent on Site Hygiene, and I loved it!  Toilets are the place where you meet the public; it's the first place everyone visits on arrival and the last place they visit before they leave. It is truly a 'meet and greet' situation.



Two years ago, I got the job of toilets at Art in Action.  The idea was to make the job attractive for the team.  I imagined an oasis, a place to rest, with plants, a water fountain, trees, a table with hand cream, mirrors etc.  When anyone entered the area it would be a peaceful retreat from the all the activity of the show. People could find respite from the hot sun, with refreshing water to drink. They could walk into a garden of calm and have every need met.  Indeed the level of care would be the same as everywhere else in the show.   


The Oasis

It has taken two years to realise that vision. We started with plants, tables with mirrors and hand cream, sunblock and fresh drinking water. Then last year we achieved our goal of having a water fountain in which children enjoyed cooling themselves. We even added perfume to the growing supplies. Noticing that some ladies who had just come off a coach were using our chairs, we realised that they were simply overheated. We quickly acquired bowls and offered a foot-bath (followed by talcum powder!) to anyone in need. People left us feeling totally refreshed; one lady said, 'I will remember this for the rest of my life - I've never been looked after like this.'  


It was the intention to provide as much happiness and bliss as possible.  And it has been wonderful to see members of the team come up with inspiring ideas which have then come to life. Last year, one of them had the idea of a cloakroom facility and we added a space for anyone wanting to leave baby buggies or items they'd purchased. That led to a baby changing area, a quiet place for mothers to feed their babies, and books for toddlers to look at . . .  all free of charge to the public. 



Needless to say, there is now growing enthusiasm amongst volunteers to join Site Hygiene! Last year even my mother came to help and ended up staying for the 'takedown' as she enjoyed herself so much.  

The response from the public is extreme gratitude - this is rewarding for us.  The area is a calm, happy place to be, full of laughter with a delightful energy, and spontaneous conversations between strangers.


How to love your work?  Meet the need - and give it everything you've got!  


Comments from visitors: 

We came again this year having not been for a few years.  I have some positive comments to make...The toilets, both their location and cleanliness were OUTSTANDING - simply excellent and the 'Marigold'-wearing cleaning ladies were doing a fantastic job... We look forward to next year and who knows we might even volunteer to help . . .


Congratulations on bringing the toilets back to their attractive presentation.  I only visited the ones near the Welcome tent but presume the others were just as inviting.  This is a lovely gesture which will remain in people's minds long after the event has faded!


Just wanted to thank all involved in the organisation this year.  It was wonderful to see the attention to detail in the Ladies Toilets, the flowers, sunscreen and the free water - it was - everywhere was, just fantastic. 


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Reader Feedback

As always, thanks for reading!


Thank you for sending out insight. I love the feeling of being in touch with you and other schools in the world. My children are small, so I attend classes through distance learning.  I was moved to write by the breathtaking panoramic images of the murals at Waterperry. I attended my first residential there 1997-1998 over New Year, I believe. That week had a big impact on my life. I was so struck with the age and beauty of the house. I remember having to walk across a plank to get to my bedroom [due to building works at the time!]. I don't often see buildings that old in the US. I find physical evidence of human history very soothing. My husband thinks I'm British, deep down. I certainly loved visiting and hope I can come back some day. The murals are amazing, absolutely beautiful.New York


Well done on another excellent edition. The articles and photos are inspiring.  I am just finishing the first half of my degree and in need of a bit of inspiration and lo and behold...there it was! Dublin


No Insight would be the same without Lily's insight!  London


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