We were delighted to learn that Ron Smith, the school’s long-time volunteer woodwork instructor, was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List.
Ron received his award “for voluntary services to Harmeny School, the Seagull Trust, and the community of Midlothian”.
Ron first began volunteering at Harmeny in 1963, while still a student. Over the 54 years since, he has volunteered for some 30 or so of them, giving his time to The Friends of Harmeny, doing maintenance jobs around the estate during its early days, and helping to conjure magical sets for the school’s annual Christmas show seemingly out of nothing.
However, for the children of Harmeny it is Ron’s work with them in the small wood workshop that has made the most obvious impact. Kitted out over the years with child-friendly tools and resources to create wonderful wooden crafts, it’s a place of real opportunity. Ron reckons the young people learn a whole lot more here than they realise, from how to hold a saw to mental arithmetic and design.
It’s never been just about making a boat or wooden crane, Ron says – “it’s always been about getting some life skills into the children, and giving them an idea of what the workplace feels like. And it should be fun. A lot of these kids have come from a funless environment; so we need to brighten their lives up a bit.”
Harmeny CEO Neil Squires says that it is the continuity Ron has provided over the years which is key. “His reliable and steady influence, which is so lacking in the lives of the children who come to Harmeny, has enabled them to achieve remarkable outcomes. For many children he has been a positive role model, gaining their trust, expanding their horizons and helping them see that they really can achieve things they never thought possible.”