Friday, 26 February 2010

Lego auction

It happened like this. A well wisher retrieved a lot (boxes and boxes full) of Lego from a skip which she donated to Children North East. Our fundraising team had been talking to Northumbria University about student placements in Children North East and fund raising. Why not give over a day during Student Volunteering Week (this week) for students to make things out of Lego which could be auctioned? That is exactly what happened yesterday at the Richard Ling gallery in Gosforth. It has been such an unusual event that there has been plenty of coverage in the local newspapers which is good for everyone involved.

The students spent the day making necklaces, coasters, earrings, Lego flowers in plant pots, The Angel of the North, mobile phone holders and even a cushion and bra decorated with Lego. You might have thought they would be art students, but actually most of them were studying law or journalism. Richard Ling very kindly gave everyone the use of his gallery and hosted a public auction in the evening when all the items were sold.

I am now the proud owner of four highly decorative coasters made from Lego which are on display in my office. We did not make a lot of money but that was hardly the point. Everyone had fun, there was good publicity for all involved, new relationships were made and there is still a lot of Lego left over which we will give to children to play with.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

A Crack

We knew there was a crack in the wall at the WEYES building running from top to bottom on the party wall inside the WEYES building. When Children North East bought the building the surveyor said it was OK. The picture shows it after _space removed the plaster from around it. At the top of the house shown here it is large enough to put a fist in, on the ground is it barely a crack.

It seems it was built in 1877 there was an option to have an extention on the back or not (some of the terrace don't, ours does), however you can see from the brickwork that little attempt was made to link the courses of bricks, in effect the extention was abutted and over time it has fallen away very slightly. The structural engineers have examined it and the solution is to remove three courses of bricks at three foot intervals all the way up the house and then relay properly across the crack in effect 'stitching' it together, and then plaster over the top.

Amazing what can be done by professional builders who know what they are doing. They seem to  enjoy doing stuff like this, more of a challenge than a new building.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Government grants

A few weeks ago I mentioned we had applied to Government for a grant under the Social Enterprise Investment Fund which is Department of Health capital funding for social enterprises and voluntary organisations who deliver services that contribute to the health and wellbeing of communities. The DoH realised some years ago that prevention of poor health is far better (and cheaper) than looking after sick people; and also that the work voluntary organisations, community groups and social enterprises do in communities contributes significantly to the general health and well being of people, which in turn prevents poor health. All well and good and a perfect fit for the WEYES project.

No sooner had we submitted an application by the closing date, than the DoH announced an almost identical opportunity again for capital grants from the Social Enterprise Investment Fund. This time you can apply for between £150,000 and £400,000 which has to be drawn down almost immediately. The application form was slightly different, it asked more detailed questions about purchase of property, planning permission, architect's drawing etc. Once again we think our circumstances - having already bought the WEYES building, obtained planning permission, commissioned architect's drawings (and even starting the work) ideally fit the fund requirements. But we can't quite believe it and it seems unlikely to us that many organisations are in a similar situation to apply.

When we spoke to the fund managers they suggested we apply again and just note on the application that we had already replied to the previous round. They were not able to tell us the progress of the first application nor when they would be able to give us a response. It's rather like entering a looking glass world, all we can do is hope.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

New work for WEYES

I am delighted the Journal printed my letter last Saturday which, I am told is the day that has the largest readership. It is important to remember that WEYES is just one Children North East project yet the theme that runs through all the projects is addressing the impact of inequality on children, young people and their parents. I am sure we are going to hear a lot more about that in the run up to the general election.

I'm very excited about a new contract Children North East has won this week. The local authority concerned asked us not to make a public announcement just yet, but is a blog 'public'? Depends how many people read it - probably not that many?

Back in November we submitted a bid for a contract to set up and support a Youth Council in one of the North East Local Authorities. The Local Authority concerned wanted an external body to do this so that the Youth Council had genuine autonomy and would therefore be better able to challege the Local Authority, giving young people not only a real voice but more importantly some influence. It seemed like an ideal opportunity - shouldn't an organisation called 'Children North East' be supporting children and young people so that their voices are heard?

A team of us worked hard on the bid, pulling together our collective knowledge of 'participation' by young people and the creative ideas of the staff at WEYES. Just before Christmas we were informed that we had been shortlisted with one other organisation. We were invited to make a short presentation about how we would persuade a group of young people to be part of a Youth Council, and then be interviewed by a panel of young people. That should have happened at the beginning of January but was postponed until 1st February due to the snow .

A lot of preparation and rehearsal went in to the presentation and after the interview we thought we had spoken as well as we could. We were delighted with the news next day that we had won the contract! This is particularly good news for the staff at WEYES who will be managing this new work. It adds to our concept of the new WEYES building being a base for a range of services and activities for young people.