We work with over 7,000 young people every year, close to their homes or on residentials in the Lake District.
By focusing on the skills, attitudes and behaviours that young people need, including employability and resilience, they can make active choices benefiting them and the people around them.
My role in all of this is in our ‘engine room’. Don’t be fooled by the job title, my role is much wider than the numbers. My time is spent with colleagues working to ensure things run smoothly, that we have the funds to do our work and we are engaging with the wider world. This year that happened at an unexpected scale as our world was rocked by the untimely death of Matt Campbell, an amazing young man and supporter of Brathay.
Matt collapsed and died 3.7 miles before the finish line of the London Marathon. The global response was incredible, 32,000 messages of support and donations of over £379,000. We’ve used these funds to set up a ‘3.7 Programme’, helping develop resilience in young people struggling with mainstream education. Three successful pilots have taken place, the first in Matt’s own school. We hope to work with 12 schools each year and to keep fundraising so this can continue for many years. A minibus would be big help in transporting participants and we have an appeal on our website to fund this. If anyone wants to help, thank you.
Brathay came to the attention of expert potters, Martin and Siobhan Miles-Moore after Matt died. They approached us about our work and named us as their charity of the year. They’ve got Brathay under their skins now and volunteered their skills as part of the 3.7 Programme. Working with clay can be a powerful way to help explore young peoples’ personal resilience. Creativity has always been part of Brathay’s ethos and something we are keen to further develop in our work. It’s a great fit.
Everything we do is about our charitable mission, and we’ve operated as a true social enterprise for over 70 years, with work for corporates and income from events being used to help meet costs. These are uncertain times - irrespective of your view on Brexit, the one certainty is that uncertainty affects businesses and charities like Brathay. HR budgets are the first to be frozen and this impacts on some of our key activity.
There’s pressure too on trusts and foundations. They only have so much money to go around and far too many deserving requests for support. Understandably some grant givers also want to see their support replaced by sponsorship from business. This is the case with our Aspiring Leaders Programme, a pioneering community leadership development programme run by us, the University of Cumbria and Common Purpose.
These pressures are one of the reasons we’ve developed our Challenge Events brand, people can take part in a quality event whilst making money to support our work and raising our profile. We have seen a 68% increase in the last two years of people entering our ASICS Windermere Marathon. In taking over the Langdale Road Race Series this year, two races sold out, so we’ve got to be pleased with that. We’ve also got cycling, walking and rowing events for teams and individuals and are currently signing up participants to cycle 10 laps of Windermere in 24 hours (you know you want to!).
Our community continues to be important to us, they support us immensely - from bearing with us when we’ve got a road closed, to sponsoring and volunteering - and they benefit from monies raised. Our Focus on Furness Appeal supports work with youngsters in Barrow. This year we have helped 901 children and young people in the Furness area. Our move into the hub with Project John in Barrow town centre means we are now part of a "one-stop shop" for anyone aged 16-24 in the town.
Like many other charities, we are expected to do more with less. The political climate is such that charities are often filling gaps in social provision. This raises fundamental questions about society, where we are going and who is going to pay for the care and support which is needed. The budgetary pressures on social provision are huge and we don’t want outcomes for vulnerable young people to suffer.
Working with others is one way forward. We have various collaborative relationships including one with the University of Cumbria. They are just completing a refurbishment of our boathouse and slipway, so their outdoor education courses can use our site and we have a great new facility to use.
Making sure we have the right staff in place is also a challenge, which Brexit (sorry, it’s only the second time I’ve said the B* word) makes no easier. We need chefs, casual general assistants, fundraisers, researchers and youth development workers to name but a few. Even as a relatively large local employer, recruitment issues bewilder, perplex and frustrate us.
This is the most incredible place to work, from bumping into a deer on a misty morning and taking in the views down the lake to seeing young people full of purpose absorbed in activities on the lawn. As the Finance Director I have to look at the numbers but the real joy comes from the young people and their potential to achieve great things.