Our Spring Newsletter - Out Now!

March 30, 2020

With news of our new Thrive Inside project, our 2019 Impact Report and details of our February Journey Projects. You can read it here.

Read our 2019 Impact Report

March 30, 2020

We've been busy crunching the data and gathering the stories from our projects over 2019 and are very proud to present our 2019 Impact Report! You can read it here.

Coronavirus (COVID 19)

March 20, 2020

Following careful consideration, we have reluctantly and very sadly made a decision to cancel our residential projects and put our mentoring sessions on hold for the time being to prioritise the health and safety of our children and volunteers (and, by extension, their wider families). We have spent the last few days letting families, referrers and volunteers know about this. It is not a decision we have made lightly, especially given how hard we know the coming months are likely to be for many of the families we support. We will be monitoring the situation and government advice closely so that we can resume running projects as soon as it is safe to do so, (we hope, by the summer).

 

We’re in the early stages of looking at whether, working alongside schools, we can offer any meaningful support to the vulnerable children we know well, and will take time to carefully explore this over the next week or so  as the situation becomes clearer. We’ll update you when we can.

In the meantime, we'll need more volunteers than ever once we are able to resume our projects, so please consider signing up to volunteer with us!

Defying Storm Dennis on our February Journey Projects!

February 25, 2020

Last week, both the Adventurers and the Braves undertook their final Free to Be projects after a year of working with us. Both groups joined us in the Forest of Dean, where - despite the very stormy weather and flooding - they challenged themselves to the max, taking part in escape room challenges that tested their teamwork under pressure, amazing street art workshops with brilliant artist, Tim Martin and an underground caving challenge. As usual, there was lots of space for reflection on distance travelled and challenges overcome, both as a group and individually.

 

We're so proud of both groups of young people who have completed our Journey Projects this year - they have all worked hard to get to know themselves, their skills and their talents and have formed incredibly accepting and positive support networks for each other. We're very sad that our work with these cohorts is reaching an end, but look forward both to hearing about the great things they go on to achieve, and welcoming whole new groups of Adventurers and Braves to work alongside us over 2020/21.

Free to Be at the MTN-i Awards!

February 06, 2020

Once again, we were hugely honoured to be chosen as one of MTN-i's charity partners at their awards dinner and charity auction event. MTN-i have been loyal friends of Free to Be since our foundation and we're so grateful for their continued support. Huge thanks also to the companies who kindly donated spectacular raffle and auction items and the lovely attendees for their enthusiasm and generosity on the night! Here's Rachel updating everyone on our work over the past year.

Our Winter Newletter is out now!

December 06, 2019

With updates on our work over Summer and Autumn 2019 and details of our Christmas Wishlist. You can read it here. Why not sign up to receive our newsletters directly to your inbox? You can do so by entering your details here.

Our Christmas Wishlist is live!

November 28, 2019

Could you give an extra special gift this Christmas to a vulnerable child? Today we're unveiling our Christmas Wishlist to help us reach more children than ever before in 2020. Your support could cover the cost of horizon broadening activities, experiences and breaks for some of London's most vulnerable children and young people. Click here to view the list and donate yourself or give a gift on behalf of a friend or loved one. 

Winners of the London Youth Excellence in Outdoor Education Award!

November 14, 2019

This evening we attended the London Youth Awards in the Assembly Chamber at City Hall. We were very honoured to win the award for Excellence in Outdoor Education, despite some tough competition from the other amazing nominees in our field. The award was presented to us by Sian Berry, Co-Leader of The Green Party and the judges noted that they were particularly impressed by the efforts we make to enable access to our projects for the most vulnerable children, many of whom wouldn’t otherwise have the chance to experience adventurous outdoor activities or spend time in natural settings. 

Our October Journey Projects are full of adventure!

October 28, 2019

Our Adventurers and Braves both enjoyed lots of Autumnal fun on their third Journey Projects during October Half Term. The two groups undertook a two day horse based challenge, learning to care for and ride horses with the wonderful team at 4 Seasons Forest Rides. The challenge culminated in a long horseback expedition, where they rode unaided through open countryside, looking for clues and completing challenges along the way! They also enjoyed trying a bit of falconry and getting up close to hawks and owls in the forest; an exciting nightwalk, exploring seashore, sand dunes and woodland; working together as a team in our Masterchef Innovation Challenge, to cook dinner for 14 people from a selection of raw ingredients and doing some thinking about the current education system and how they might redesign schools. We're so proud of both groups and the huge strides they have made in confidence, problem solving and working together. We're looking forward to their final trip with us in February. 

Huge thanks to the Its Great Out There Coalition for generously funding the activities on these trips!

Another Jam Packed Free to Be Summer!

August 31, 2019

We're very proud to say that our projects over July and August provided 155 much needed residential breaks for vulnerable children and young people. Thanks to the amazing support and hard work of over 70 volunteers, the children were able to enjoy a whole range of horizon-broadening, confidence building activities in the Sussex countryside, from pony trekking to kayaking, exploring forests to camping under the stars. We're busy sorting through our evaluation data at the moment and look forward to sharing our findings in our Impact Report at the end of the year.

Our Spring Newsletter is out now!

May 09, 2019

Click here to read all about what we got up to on our Easter residentials, meet our newest member of staff, Tina and find out how you can get involved as a volunteer this Summer or Autumn. You can also click here to sign up to our newsletter mailing list and receive future termly newsletters directly to your inbox. 

Our Easter Escape provides vital respite for 20 children

April 21, 2019

We're just wrapping up our Easter Escape project in sunny Wiltshire. The children, referred by schools across South London, enjoyed meeting animals at the farm, swimming, swinging through the trees at a woodland high ropes course, kayaking, mountain biking, learning to light fires and more. We even had a visit from an armadillo! The project provided a much needed break for children who are struggling at home and school and who otherwise wouldn't have access to safe spaces to play over the school holidays. As usual, we are so grateful to our team of talented, fun and vibrant volunteers, who put their hearts and souls into ensuring that each and every child attending had a memorable break from home and felt special and included.

Nice By Nature support our work!

April 16, 2019

We're thrilled to announce our partnership with new children's ice lolly brand, Nice By Nature. Their yummy lollies contain only 100% real fruit and, as part of their commitment to helping children to enjoy the best of nature, they are generously supporting our residential projects this summer. Their lollies have already received the seal of approval from our children - the perfect way to cool down after a day full of activities on our projects!

2019 Journey Projects off to a great start

April 07, 2019

This year's Journey Projects are well underway, with two groups of young people (the Adventurers and the Braves), each joining us for a five day project on the Suffolk coast. As well as the usual mix of outdoor fun and adventures, these projects involve more intensive support for young people who have worked with Free to Be before and would benefit from longer term, deeper support. The young people have been stretching their perceptions of what they are capable of in our challenge activity - a six mile canoe trip and woodland survival challenge; sharing their views and thinking together about how to get help with topical issues such as knife crime and social media; honouring each other's achievements and qualities through our nightly Honour's Council and reflecting on who their role models are as part of our Wisdom activity. We can't wait to work more with both very talented groups and see them develop further as they return on three more projects with us over the coming months.

A new home for our Equipment - Thanks Attic Self Storage!

March 27, 2019

We're so grateful to the wonderful team at Attic Self Storage, who have very generously provided us with a new home for all our equipment. The huge unit they have given us provides us with enough space to organise everything efficiently and clearly, meaning that we can prepare ahead for our projects and ensure that all our toys, games, camping equipment and more is kept in tip top condition between uses. Having moved in today, we're looking forward to getting to know the team better over the coming months!

Welcome Tina!

March 26, 2019

We're very pleased to welcome Tina, our newest member of staff, to the Free to Be team. Tina will be taking the lead on looking after and recruiting volunteers for our projects, as well as playing a key role in running many of our residentials. Tina's background is in youth work and international development, and she is looking forward to getting to know our amazing volunteers and children over the next few months. Here she is with Beans the dog, who popped by Freebie HQ to say hello!

Could you use your art skills to help make our project sites magical?

January 31, 2019

We're looking for artists, crafters and other creative volunteers to help us at our annual Art Weekend! This year's project will be kindly hosted by Turnham Academy in Brockley (there's a map here) on 9th & 10th March, between 10am and 6pm. You can come for one day or sign up to both. Lunch, refreshments and good company will be provided, along with all the equipment and materials you need to produce large murals, banners, bunting and more. The items created will be used to decorate the outdoor education centres, residential schools and other venues that we hire to run our projects from, turning them into enchanted forests, fairytale castles and pirate ships on the high seas! You can let your imagination and creativity run wild, creating bright, beautiful pieces of art that will be used for years to come. For some examples of work produced on previous projects, have a look here.

 

The more volunteers, the merrier (and no need for DBS checks, since no children will be in attendance), so please spread the word and invite friends. Let us know you are planning to come along by emailing recruitment@freetobekids.org.uk 

Our First Office!

January 21, 2019

We're really excited to announce another milestone in Free to Be's growth - we've got our first office! From the beginning of February, we'll be based in Granby Space on bustling Lower Marsh, a stone's throw from Waterloo Station! We're just kitting the space out at the moment and would like to thank the following organisations for helping us with generous donations to turn the space into a cosy HQ:

The brilliant Meanwhile Space (www.meanwhilespace.com), who repurpose empty buildings into affordable office and community spaces for local startups like ourselves.

The fantastic Collecteco (www.collecteco.co.uk), who have provided us with free furniture, donated by businesses who no longer need it. 

The lovely people at Bannerbuzz (www.bannerbuzz.com) for supplying us with a free banner to signpost where we are.

The fabulous team at Go Displays (www.go-displays.co.uk) for donating some display boards to us, which we'll use to showcase our achievements and latest volunteering opportunities.

And a massive thank you to our amazing volunteers who, as usual, have stepped in to help us out with painting, laying carpet tiles and driving about to collect things! We'll post some photos of the finished office soon!

2019 volunteering dates out now!

January 18, 2019

We've published our latest volunteering schedule for Spring and Summer 2019. You can have a look, and find instructions on how to sign up, here

Job vacancy! Volunteering Lead & Residential Project Coordinator

December 31, 2018

We're recruiting! We're looking for an exceptional candidate to join our small team. You'll directly support both our volunteers and our children in this interesting but challenging dual role. Click here to view the recruitment pack and here to open the application form. Closing date 31st January 2019.

Read our 2018 Impact Report

December 16, 2018

We've been busy crunching the data and getting feedback from the children, volunteers and families who have been a part of our work over 2018 and we're happy to report that our latest Impact Report is the result. You can have a read here.

Free to Be is one of the first recipients of the Mayor’s Young Londoners Fund

November 08, 2018

We are  proud and excited to announce that we have been awarded a three year grant as part of the Mayor of London's Young Londoners Fund. The £45m fund has been created to fund London based projects that provide young people with the support they need to fulfil their potential and avoid getting caught up in crime. This support will allow us to develop our Thrive Outside programme over the next three years, growing support for children and young people across London at risk of social exclusion. 

London Mayor, Sadiq Khan says,  “By investing in projects, and young people, that are dedicated to giving young Londoners an opportunity to get involved in positive activities, we can work to help every child and teenager at risk off the streets, and away from the dangers of crime.  The projects we’ve invested in are already making a difference to young people in London and this next phase of the £45m programme, backed up by £2.6m of City Hall investment, will help provide valuable life opportunities for almost 10,000 young Londoners.”

 

You can read the full press release from the GLA here.

What a busy Half Term!

October 29, 2018

We've just got back from two fantastic projects over the October Half Term! The first, at Foxlease in the New Forest, was our final Journey Project, working with a group of children we have been supporting to work towards their own specific goals since Easter. The group took part in all sorts of activities - challenging themselves on a giant zip-wire and whilst scaling climbing walls, working as a team to cook a delicious meal of homemade pasta and meatballs and enjoying our traditional campfire with marshmallows to toast and magic glowing pinecones to help make wishes come true!

Our second project was a returning respite break, to provide some 'top up' Free to Be support for some children who have previously attended our Thrive Outside projects. This project was generously funded by The Berkeley Foundation and we're very grateful for their support. The children braved the chilly autumn weather to try all sorts of exciting outdoor activities, from kayaking, to water zorbing, to testing their courage with a Leap of Faith and working in teas to build trebuchets! We also enjoyed a blustery nightwalk up a hill, complete with surprise sparklers at the top, and (even more surprising) a flurry of snow as we walked back down!

Thanks to Rosker Ltd

September 16, 2018

We’d like to say a big thank you to the team at Rosker LTD, who sent us a very exciting present this summer - two large Primus Kamoto Openfire pits. These brilliant pieces of kit have allowed many of the vulnerable children we’ve worked with this summer to enjoy cooking their dinner over a campfire whilst having their first taste of camping out for the night. The children have enjoyed making jacket potatoes with chilli con carne and other hearty fillings, chocolate stuffed baked bananas and a group even made their own chocolate brownies, cooked in the embers of the fire inside hollowed out oranges. The fire pits also facilitated a very large amount of marshmallow roasting and provided great ambience for some spooky storytelling!

Camping is such a key part of many children’s experience with us, allowing them to conquer fears, experience feeling brave and adventurous and providing us with a great tool to forge deeper senses of inclusion and belonging for those who struggle with isolation at home and school. We can’t thank Rosker enough for their support!

Thanks to GP Batteries

August 31, 2018

This summer, we've been developing our camping trips with the children, running our Under the Stars project at the beautiful Willowbrook Farm in Oxfordshire and two of our Journey Projects with the Kids Farm Trust, staying in their idyllic lakeside safari tents in rural Sussex. The children absolutely love the freedom to explore and the excitement of braving the great outdoors and sleeping out! One challenge we always face though, is the best way to keep in touch with parents, carers and other loved ones at home, so that the children can share their adventures and achievements and we can manage the practical logistics of the breaks. 

Luckily, thanks to our new friends at GP Batteries, the issue has been solved! Having met the team and explained our challenge at the  Outdoor Trade Show in Manchester, they generously came to the rescue, sending us a range of PowerBanks to keep the Free to Be phones charged, even on our longest camping trips. 

We're so grateful for their support - the power packs have not only allowed us to keep in touch, but also to snap photos of the children's adventures, which are then made into photo collages to help them remember their time with us. 

Another Successful Summer!

August 31, 2018

The sleeping bags are off being laundered, the bunting is packed away and our buckets, spades, footballs and kites are safely back in storage! It's the end of another successful summer at Free to Be - thanks to 57 amazing volunteers, we've been able to provide 121 respite breaks for vulnerable children. One of our volunteers said, "The project is such a heart-opening and valuable experience for both volunteers and children, evident through the sheer joy shown on their faces during the whole week. Reflecting upon the project gives a real sense of perspective to the lives that the children are living every day, and the project has a massive impact upon their confidence and self-esteem." Now we're looking forward to crunching our evaluation and impact data from the project over the next few months - we will be sure to share our findings here as soon as they are ready. 

Our Spring Newsletter is out now!

May 25, 2018

You can read it here, or sign up to receive it directly to your inbox in future by subscribing here.

We're Recruiting! DEADLINE FOR APPLICATIONS HAS NOW PASSED

May 17, 2018

Exciting news! Free to Be is recruiting for its first paid role! If you're interested in becoming part of our team and taking on a fast-paced and wide-ranging job leading the development of our Thrive Outside Programme, you can find full details here. Applications should be sent by email to the Trustees, via the Treasurer, Rosie Atkinson by 30th May 2018.

Please note, since the deadline has now passed, we are no longer accepting applications for this role.

Our fourth Create & Cook Project gets going

May 03, 2018

This week saw the start of another Create & Cook project, this time working with children at Robert Browning Primary School in Southwark. The group, supported by seven Free to Be volunteers, will work together for nine weeks to cook and share meals. As well as learning new cooking techniques and exploring new foods, the children will be supported to develop social skills, work in teams and share their thoughts and feelings.

 

Our first session got off to a great start, with the children kneading dough, chopping vegetables and grating cheese to make some delicious pizzas. For dessert, they worked together to prepare a colourful fruit salad, using nine different types of fruit. We particularly enjoyed bashing our pomegranate halves with wooden spoons to make all the seeds fall out! The children described themselves as  feeling  'inspired', 'special' and 'proud' at the end of the session.  Next week, we'll be making cannelloni and chocolate brownies.

Spring fun on our Easter Escape Project

April 16, 2018

Twenty one incredible children and fifteen amazing volunteers spent a brilliant, though rather muddy week in the New Forest last week, enjoying, amongst other things, kayaking, mountain biking, swimming, den building, feeding animals on the farm and cooking. One of the children wrote to us afterwards and said, "You made me feel that I was not just part of a group, but part of a family - the Free to Be Family... This trip has made me think of the world in a whole new and amazing way!"

Crafty Creations at our second Art Weekend

February 19, 2018

It was great to be back at Bisterne Manor farm again this weekend, thanks to the generous hospitality of Hallam and his team.  Seven talented volunteers came down to the beautiful surrounds of the New Forest for a weekend of painting and crafting beautiful signs and banners to decorate our project sites. The finished items will make their debut on our Easter Escape project. 

Our Volunteering Programme for 2018 is out now!

February 05, 2018

We're excited to publish this year's full volunteering programme. You can find it here. There's lots to choose from - residential and non-residential; opportunities to work directly with the children and work supporting our project set ups. We hope you'll consider getting involved!

Thank you to Persimmon Homes

January 27, 2018

We're very grateful to Persimmon Homes, who selected Free to Be as one of their Community Partner organisations recently. Their generous donation will help fund our Easter Escape, providing vital support for disadvantaged children from across London. 

Our Annual Report and Accounts for 2016/17 are now published

January 20, 2018

If you're interested in reading them, you can find them here.

Our Autumn/Winter Newsletter is out now!

December 14, 2017

Our latest newsletter is out now! Its full of news on our recent and forthcoming residential projects, our Create & Cook group at Charles Dickens Primary School and our Christmas gift appeal . You can read it here.

Read about our Impact

December 10, 2017

We've been busy crunching the data and gathering stories from children, volunteers, parents, carers and referrers and are now proud to present our Impact Report for Summer 2017. We hope you enjoy reading it!

Pumpkins, camping and tree climbing on our Autumn Adventure

October 28, 2017

Today we got back from our Autumn Adventure project in the New Forest. This was the last of a series of three projects, which worked with a group of Looked After children, who we have been supporting over the last year. We were commissioned to design and deliver this piece of work by a local authority and its proved to be a great chance to develop our thoughts around the importance of ongoing work and to support some really fantastic development in confidence, social skills and the children's sense of self.

The children had worked with us on their last project to design their own activity timetable, and enjoyed bike riding, tree climbing, cooking, pumpkin carving, camping out overnight, swimming and visiting a wild animal park. Throughout the project, each child created their own memory book, which included their best moments, biggest successes and achievements over the year. Its been a real honour to get to know these amazing children - to share in their successes and witness their hard work in overcoming challenges. We hope they are really proud of all they have achieved during their time with us.

Autumn Term Create & Cook begins!

October 11, 2017

Today we had the first of our Create & Cook sessions at Charles Dickens Primary School in Southwark. A team of 10 volunteers are designing and running the sessions, which provide therapeutic cooking activities for a group of children, who we will work with over the course of the term. As well as cooking and eating together, the sessions aim to build confidence, support creativity and playfulness, and provide opportunities for children to work in a team. This week, we learnt about each other's favourite foods, created pizzas and worked together to make a big fruit salad. Next week, the children have asked to make chocolate cake! We'll also have a go at cheesy vegetable pasties.

An epic summer of residentials comes to an end

September 01, 2017

We're proud to announce that our summer of residentials has just finished. Over July and August, we ran five separate projects in the Sussex  countryside, which between them provided 118 holiday places for exceptionally vulnerable children, referred by schools, social services, PRUs, housing associations, homelessness charities and community groups from across London. We'd like to say a HUGE thank you to the 55 talented and dedicated volunteers, who gave their time this summer to work alongside our children and make the projects happen.

Alastair Stewart visits us

August 01, 2017

We had a very special visitor yesterday. Alastair Stewart popped in to hear more about our work and do some pond dipping with the children! He's written a guest blog on our website about his morning with us. You can read it here.

Thrive Outside summer set up in full swing

July 29, 2017

We've been frantically preparing for our summer projects this weekend, with volunteers assembling bunk beds, putting up bunting and making welcome banners, ready for the first group of children arriving this weekend. We've also been incredibly lucky to benefit from a range of gifts in kind to keep us organised and our equipment safe. The fantastic Plus Crates provided us with a huge stack of sturdy storage boxes for all our equipment, and the lovely people at  www.discountstickerprinting.co.uk  have printed us lots of stickers to keep track of all our stuff. We're so grateful to both of them!

Our first Young Leaders' Project

May 29, 2017

We've just got back from our first ever Young Leaders' Project, which took place in the Hertfordshire countryside. The weekend was jam packed with team building, training and role plays, to nurture and build the skills of some of our amazing 14-16 year olds, who have already demonstrated their great leadership on our previous projects. We were hugely impressed with their clear thinking, commitment and empathy and can't wait for them to join us in mentoring roles with the younger children on our Thrive Outside projects this summer!

RAL Display Marketing generously donate us a pop up banner

May 25, 2017

Many thanks to the team at RAL Display Marketing, who have created and donated a pop up banner for us to use as part of our fundraising and volunteer recruitment efforts - we're so grateful for their support in helping us to raise awareness of the work we're doing!

Our Spring Newsletter is out now!

April 22, 2017

Click here to read it, or here to subscribe to our newsletter list, which means you'll receive our termly updates straight to your inbox!

Our Easter Projects

April 21, 2017

We've not long got back from two very successful projects that ran over the Easter Holidays. The first took place in the New Forest, and provided a much needed holiday for 20 children from South London, referred by a range of schools, housing associations and homelessness charities. The second week was a smaller, bespoke project, which we were commissioned to design and deliver on behalf of a Local Authority - that project provided a respite break for 11 children on the beautiful Suffolk Coast. 

The children and volunteers on both projects had a great time - we enjoyed meeting baby chicks and lambs, kite flying on the beach, exploring ruins and forests, going on night walks and even made our own Easter Eggs!

Volunteer Arts Weekend

March 21, 2017

We've just got back from a really productive weekend down at Bisterne Manor Farm in the New Forest, where, along with a team of very talented volunteer artists, we created the art work needed to transform our residential sites from schools and outdoor education centres into exciting holiday homes! Working to our 'Knights and Dragons' and 'Enchanted Forest' briefs, the artists created some really amazing work. You can see some photos from the weekend here.

 

We'd like to say a massive thank you to the team at Bisterne Manor Farm for hosting us and making us feel so welcome, and to interior design house Goddard Littlefair and the lovely Charlene who, between them, donated many of the materials we used to create our masterpieces.

Mtn-i Awards and Charity Auction

February 16, 2017

Free to Be was honoured to be chosen as one of the beneficiaries at the mtn-i Awards Dinner and charity auction last week, which raised a fantastic £3,000 towards our summer residentials. Ever since our initial launch, the team at mtn-i have been hugely generous and supportive of Free to Be and we are so pleased to count them amongst our friends. We'd like to say a really heartfelt thank you to Mike, Ross, Shannon and the rest of the team there, along with all the incredibly generous bidders who contributed to the auction.