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Wirral organisations given cash boost by crowd-funding initiative

A community fund established by Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram has celebrated reaching its £1 million fundraising target, just a month after it was launched. The LCR Cares crowdfunding page was set up to raise much-needed funds for charities and community groups in the Merseyside region and has so far helped 191 organisations.

We talk to two Wirral organisations who have benefitted, Wirral Youth Zone (The Hive) and Koala North West.

Wirral Youth Zone (The Hive)

Like many organisations The Hive was forced to close its doors in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Since it opened in 2017 the youth zone in Birkenhead has helped thousands of young people aged between 8 and 19 (and up to the age of 25 for those with a disability) learn new skills, raise their aspirations and boost their confidence, with a wide range of activities including sport, music art and media, as well as sessions about employability and mental health. 

But while the doors have been closed during lockdown, The Hive remains very much open. 

Chief Executive Stuart Barnes said: ‘We may be closed but we remain connected with our members, keeping in touch with as many young people as possible. I am incredibly proud of the team, who over the course of one weekend completely redesigned our offer and moved seamlessly into what has become, for the time being, our new normal’

The youth zone continues to support young people via many daily digital ‘open access’ sessions, including workouts, art and cookery classes, as well as mentoring, advice and information. They also do video calls, a ‘Talk to the Hive’ email and deliver food and other essentials to young people.

CASE STUDY: Sarah*

Sarah has been a member of The Hive since it opened. She attend most sessions and is a young leader, a member of the choir, media squad and enjoys socialising and supporting other young people. She struggled to manage her stress and anxiety and tries to combat this by keeping busy, so lockdown has been particularly challenging for her. The Hive have been making weekly phone calls to Sarah and she has also been accessing support via the talktothehive email address. Sarah has been engaging with the online content, especially the LIVE! sessions and the Zoom calls. She often has great ideas about how we can improve our online content and is keen to get involved in making content for the juniors. 

“I’m missing my friends from the hive so much, but we try to challenge each other every day to one of the challenges you post”

* young person’s name has been changed.

The Hive received £4,865 from the LCR Cares fund which has helped employ a team member to work 25 hours a week to co-ordinate their new online offer and deliver live sessions. The grant also enabled the purchase of art packs for juniors and sanitary products for girls.

Stuart continued: ‘We heard about the LCR Cares fund via Wirral Chamber. There was an application process similar to many grant funding opportunities but with a significantly quicker response.’

‘In the short term we will continue our current programme but continuously adapting and reviewing in order to best meet the needs of young people. When the lockdown is eased, we envisage a transitional period in which our normal services are gradually re-introduced, with smaller numbers due to social distancing measures. We anticipate that we will be specifically increasing investment in, amongst other areas of work; employability, mental health support and addressing increased poverty’.

KOALA NORTH WEST

2020 was meant to be a celebration for Prenton based Koala North West. The charity, which improves wellbeing and reduces isolation for over a thousand families in Wirral, is 20 years old. It was due to mark this significant milestone by expanding the age of children they work with from 0-5 years to 0-11 years and their reach in to Ellesmere Port and Neston.

But Koala’s home-visits and group session were forced to stop abruptly when the country went in to lockdown in March. Like many charities and businesses, they hastily adapted to the situation and found new ways to provide their services. 

Chief Executive Bev Morgan said: ‘We quickly adapted to provide support via telephone, video calls and texts, both to families we support and our army of wonderful volunteers. We continue to deliver food and things like activity packs for children and now we are taking new referrals for family support and breastfeeding support. We are also looking at how we can adapt some of our volunteer training to deliver this remotely too’. 

'Thank you for your phone call, it really helped and without talking it through I would have lost the plot'

Mother who received support from Koala North West last week

Koala received £3,000 from the LCR Cares fund, which will contribute towards their Covid-19 Response Family Support Service.

Bev explains: ‘The new service provides emotional support to parents with young children during this very difficult time of having to stay at home. It also offers specialist support in perinatal mental health, children’s behaviour via our Early Years Wellbeing Practitioners and sleep support, which helps young parents whose children are struggling with sleep routines’.

The money was gratefully received because, like a lot of charities, Koala North West have been affected financially by the lockdown.

‘We are losing about £13,000 a month from our shops and we expected to bring in about £30,000 from fundraising events between April and September alone. The Business Relief Grant and furloughing our shop staff has helped with the loss, but every day the shops are closed means we are not generating income for our charity. We could be facing a financial loss of up to £150,000 this year if we can’t get back to normal with fundraising events and getting our charity shops up-and-running again. This will affect the services we can provide’.

‘Ours is a small charity which relies on volunteers and donations, now more than ever’.

If you would like to apply to be a volunteer at Koala North West, or make a donation, visit their website at koalanw.co.uk.