Ballymena Academy's time at the House of Us event

Posted on 27 October 2017

Miss Cuddihy from Ballymena Academy looks at her Childnet Digital Leaders' time at the House of Us event

Ballymena Academy's Digital Leaders braved the worst hurricane to hit Ireland in half a century to take part in Facebook's showcase event "House of Us" in London to help celebrate their involvement in the Digital Leader's Programme and their work to promote a safer and kinder internet for young people. The team comprises of pupils from upper and lower sixth – Rebecca, Abby, Jessica, Emma, Lydia, Evie, Sophie and Tom, who could not be with us.


The event was to launch the new partnership between Facebook, the Diana Award and Childnet's Digital Leader's Programme. Our pupils have been involved with the Digital Leader's programme for the last year and really enjoyed the chance to get to talk to industry experts and their peers from other school across the UK about their work and experiences of being Digital Leaders.

The hurricane 

We flew to London on Sunday evening expecting a very quick round trip, being scheduled to fly home on Monday evening. By the time we arrived at our hotel, what turned out to be Premier Inn No. 1 in Tower Bridge, we were hearing reports from home that there might be school closures because of the impending hurricane that was due to hit the south coast of Ireland on Monday morning.

We couldn't believe it when confirmation came through that all schools were to be closed and we would probably be the only pupils and teachers in the whole of the country working the next day. Before we set out the for the event on Monday morning we headed for Tower Bridge for a few photos and to take in the sights as we strolled along the river in what was the most beautiful warm and sunny weather.




We then headed to meet the Childnet team at the Hilton Hotel where we were warmly welcomed by Ricquel and Charlotte. We dropped our bags and headed for a quick bit of sight-seeing before the main event. A stroll over London Bridge brought us the the Walkie Talkie Building, where Mr. Kerr used his charm to get us priority access up to the Sky Garden to see the beautiful London skyline. By this stage we were hearing news of flight cancellations from many of the airlines across Ireland but we were not sure what was happening with our flight.


 The House of Us event

We headed back to meet Ricquel and headed to the House of Us event. We were greeted by pupils from Wath Comprhensive, also Digital Leaders. They acted as our hosts, guiding us around the interactive exhibits.

We first went through The Maze - recordings of pupils who have experienced online bullying were played on individual headsets before as we had to navigate through a pitch black maze - all of this was designed to show how isolated and lonely people feel when they are bullied. It also helped us develop a greater understanding of bullying and feel empathy towards those who are affected. We then experienced the other more positive exhibits - the interactive wall, where we shook off all our negativity and felt empowered to express ourselves; the seesaw - where we used team work to outweigh negativity; the voice-control room – which responded to our words so that the more positive words we said, the more the room light up and overcame the darkness; pedalling together on four bicycles - we charged up the capacitors which powered some fun videos to watch; the bullying or bants wall - allowed us the see that everyone sees bullying differently but that it's important to understand what it is before we can stand up to it.


Digital Leaders and Digital Ambassadors

The girls then had the chance to share their experiences of being Digital Leaders with pupils from the other schools who were either Digital Leaders or Ambassadors with the Diana Awards. They also got the meet Will Gardiner, the CEO of Childnet and Caroline Hurst who is the Childnet Education Manager. We chatted with Facebook's Karim Palant, UK Public Policy Manager, and Caroline Millin, Safety Policy Programmes EMEA and Head of Facebook [email protected], and found out how they are continuing to support the work of Childnet and the Diana Awards. The whole experience gave us all great insight into the pain experienced by cyber bullying and how important it is to use the internet and social media in a positive and caring way to help #standuptobullying. It was a really inspiring and uplifting event.


Cancelled flights and a trip to Facebook

In the meantime, we got confirmation that our flights were cancelled and we were not sure what would happen next. The Childnet and Facebook teams immediately came to our aid offering every support possible. Lunch was organised, planes, trains, taxis, dinner and Premier Inn No. 2 were sorted out as they liaised with the airline on our behalf. We still were not sure what flight we would be on but we knew we were well looked after for the evening. It wasn't until the next morning that it was confirmed that we would not be be getting a flight home until 8:20am on Wednesday morning!


The Childnet team once again came to our rescue. They organised Premier Inn No.3 and looked after us all day. They arranged with Facebook for us to visit their head offices and have lunch with them that afternoon - a really super experience, with much thanks to Karim Palant for taking time out of his busy schedule to show us around and let us play with the Oculus VR simulator and have as many sweeties as we liked!


 We then spent the rest of the day shopping on Oxford Street before heading back to our new hotel to rest up for our flight home the next morning.

'we can overcome an adversity as big as a hurricane'  

We were all tired and relieved to get home on Wednesday morning but considering how unsettling being stranded could have been, we all really had an amazing time. We were looked after so well and at no point did we feel like a nuisance or worried about being stuck or lost. From Caroline and Sharon at Childnet, Karim at Facebook and all the messages from back home, we were looked

after so well. In particular, we have to mention Ricquel and Charlotte from Childnet who were so kind and giving of their time and really made the whole trip turn into the most positive adventure. It just goes to show, that if we work together and look after each other, we can overcome an adversity as big as a hurricane!


Report thanks to Miss Cuddihy.
Photoographs thanks to Miss Cuddihy and Mr. Kerr

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