Free to Be Kids
Growing children's emotional health
helps some of the most disadvantaged children in London to change their stories about who they are and who they can become.
All of our projects are about helping children with very limited experiences of nature or the countryside, the majority of whom have never been on holiday before or have no safe space to play outside in London, to get outdoors and enjoy the breathing space, freedom, and sense of possibility and joy, that a break away from home in the countryside can bring. Many of our children struggle to engage with more traditional forms of help. Families often distrust professionals and children arrive with very limited horizons, feeling they are somehow broken, 'a problem', or a failure.
We use adventures in the outdoors, residential breaks designed to build confidence and self-worth, one-to-one mentoring and youth leadership programmes, to support vulnerable children to feel included, proud and successful, often for the first time in a long time. In turn this transforms their capacity to believe in themselves, to reach their full potential, and ultimately to do better at school and in relationships with others. Free to Be projects are built around our belief that every child deserves to experience joy and adventure within their childhood. By getting a bit muddy, learning to care for animals, working together to build a raft and paddle across a lake, or camping out under the stars for the first time, we help children with limited expectations of themselves to see just how much they really can achieve.
We're a small but rapidly growing charity focused on doing the small things well. We build our programmes around the energy, creativity and dedication brought by large numbers of committed volunteers, and every year we receive thousands' of hours' of donated time, helping us create amazing childhood memories for children from extremely difficult backgrounds.
Free To Be
98% of young people we supported in 2018 showed an increase in social confidence or self-esteem. 82% showed a very significant increase.
99% developed new social skills, including better managing frustration or better trusting and working with adults.
100% of schools reported lasting changes in emotional wellbeing and behaviour, including children's increased capacity to work with others and improved belief in their own potential.
Jordan, aged 15
Jade (12) witnessed serious domestic violence whilst younger, has no contact with her Dad, and a very difficult relationship with her Mum. She had no friends other than online acquaintances, and hadn’t left the house socially in over a year, resulting in her only attending school for 20 days in 2017. Despite having a social worker, outreach worker and CAMHS worker, at huge cost, little change had occurred in years and there were real concerns about depression and risk of exploitation.
Despite her difficulties leaving the house, Jade agreed to trial coming on a week’s residential with Free to Be – simply as a break. Whilst with us she was part of a group for the first time in a year. She had close support from empathetic volunteers, learned to light a campfire, walk through the woods in the dark, and canoe across a lake. When she capsized, her new friends helped her out of the water. Instead of feeling stuck, angry and alone, Jade was helped to feel adventurous, included, purposeful and successful. By the end of the project Jade was smiling, no longer isolated and had made a good group of friends. She was supported to have fun, challenge herself in ways which felt manageable, and begin to talk through challenges rather than avoid them.
Spending over 60 hours’ of positive, affirming time with adults , equating to more than a year’s worth of social work or similar intervention, provided the intensive support Jade needed to begin to feel differently about herself and the world. Jade is now working with a mentor from Free to Be, whom she feels able to trust having spent time with them on the residential. She is keen to volunteer as a Young Leader, is attending a youth group local to her house, and is beginning to re-engage with school. Funding from FTI would allow us to extend our support to Jade to ensure the change sticks.
"Free to Be has really changed my life. The attention I got from the adults was just unreal. I could actually trust someone outside my family and that was really helpful. Before, I wasn’t really an outgoing person, but it's weird because now I’m motivated to do things - it unlocked that door for me."
Jordan, Aged 15
(Excluded from school age 13, now helping train our other Young Leaders)