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Decorations and Panto

We were given the opportunity to have a decorated Christmas tree in Lichfield Cathedral this year, to raise our profile further afield. The queens of decor were Cheryl and Sarah, who organised and made an array of free@last festive decorations, supported by the craft specialists Berts & Gerts, and helped by our little elves. Thank you all for your amazing hard work and making this wonderful.

Panto’s

This year we’ve been blessed with donated tickets to 2 pantomimes. The first was taking 24 from our secondary youth club to see a Christmas Carol at the Alexander Theatre and the second was taking 30 mum’s, dads and kids to see Youth on Stage perform Sleeping Beauty at the Dove House Theatre.

Both performances were delivered by amateur dramatic companies, but you wouldn’t think it as they were absolutely amazing, full of great acting, singing, humour and brilliant theatrical performances. We all had an amazing time and are deeply thanking to Chris and James for donating the tickets, and Richard for driving, thank you.

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free@last Interact Rotary Club

This week we were very proud to launch our Interact Rotary Club at free@last. This is a youth version of the long established Rotary Club, an international organisation that aims to bring together business and professional leaders in order to provide humanitarian service and to advance goodwill and peace around the world. over many years, Erdington Rotary Club have graciously supported free@last and they have now sponsored the establishment and continued development of our Interact Club.

We currently have 6 young people, aged 13 to 15, who meet bi-weekly, to discuss how they are going to raise money, and then who they are going to give it to! As an organisation, we are hugely proud that our young people are passionate about financially supporting other young people, adults and animals in need and they are looking forward to being able to give small grants away, particularly to other youth clubs in Birmingham.

The young people are enjoying the roles they have been elected to fulfill, and to learn the necessary skills to perform to the highest of their abilities. they are ably assisted by the lovely Pam Collins, who has volunteer to be the link person between the Erdington Club and our Interact Club, being present at both sets of meetings.

At the Launch event, Rotary’s District Governor, Bala Jaspal and Erdington’s President, Ann Wassall, presented our members with their pin badges and medals – President – Charisma, VP – Decrae, Secretary – Chantelle, Treasurer – Alex, Members – Mya & Ethan. These are very exciting times, which we are all looking forward to seeing where our Interact’s take us.

if you want more information about supporting or joining our Interact group, please speak to John Street, Pam Collins or any of our Interact members.

 

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Summer Residentials

We had 3 awesome residentials this summer, with 12 primary aged lads going to Preston Montford Study Centre in Shrewsbury; 11 teenagers going surfing in North Devon and 34 people, representing 11 families, camping in Tenby, South Wales.

The primary residential boys had so many things to do, see and learn throughout the three days away. Our children learnt the importance of listening, following instructions, respecting the countryside and its animals, how to communicate with each other, work in teams, be responsible for each other and for each other’s space. They also learnt how to trap mammal’s, identify species and how to set them free after. During the pond dipping session, they also identifying the different creature’s living in the water, and when they went into the woods, they learnt how to catch different types of bugs. The highlight of the day for the young people was building a shelter and starting a fire – an excellent adventure for all.

The secondary residential took us to the North Devon coast, to explore, breathe the fresh air, have fun and learn how to ride the waves on a surf board! We stayed at a retreat house on Coombe Martin High Street and after a long journey down we began our stay on the local beach. Some braved the sea whilst others didn’t! Our teenagers quickly made friends with the local young people, who showed us the local sights (a cliff top and the children’s park), which entertained them for an evening. Croyde Beach was the setting for our surf lesson and after a huge amount of coercion for some young people, all 14 of us were wetsuited and booted, heading towards the waves. It was a great lesson, which EVERYONE thoroughly enjoyed and 2 even managed to stand up on their boards.

We ended the day with fish & chips in Woolacombe and a visit to Ilfracombe, and on the final day we enjoyed a walk around Lynmouth and a visit to the ice-cream parlour. A very memorable few days, made possible by our 2 volunteers coming along, Sarah Birch and Luke Street – thank you.

The family residential was 4 days in the stunning Pembroke town of Tenby. The journey down was eventful, with 1 minibus clutch breaking and having to hire a van at Monmouth! When we eventually arrived, first things first, as this was a camping holiday, the challenge was to find a suitable space for 10 tents and 2 marquees! Having settled into our camp during the first day, we had a couple of wonderful days venturing onto Tenby’s famous south beach and then time on Caldey Island. There were 34 of us, from 10 families and everyone worked amazingly well together. On our last night the weather turned for the worst and camping on a cliff top, with no weather protection, meant that the wind and rain came pouring into our field. Within minutes the strong force of the wind had broken the poles on 1 tent, with 2 or 3 others on their way out, and the rain had seeped through into 2 others. At 9pm, in the dark and gale force storm we made the right decision to pack down and travel home. This whole experience really bonded the families as we created some amazing memories that will never be forgotten, and a real desire to go and do it again!

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Mount Kilimanjaro

12 months ago, on a free at last​ fundraiser (the Oddball Run), Steven Quance​ and I decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest free standing mountain in the world. Little did either of us know the extent of the journey we would travel, or that it would become a journey shared with 6 other amazing people – Nikky Brand,​ Naomi Spencer,​ Nigel Evans​, Alex Evans​, Stuart James​, Ollie Cooper​

Being the lover of mountains that I am, I felt prepared for everything that we were about to face, with my only concern being my reaction to altitude. On arrival at the first camp I had a splitting headache and shivering, thinking the worse that I had altitude sickness and would end my journey here. It turned out to be a shortage of caffeine and a release of adrenaline from finally starting this epic journey.

Everything was going fine until an hour into day 3 when I stepped up onto a boulder, and as I stepped down the other side I landed awkwardly on a smaller stone and went over on my left ankle. I heard 2 cracks and again presumed my challenge was over.

If you know me well, you will know I am very stubborn and with a mind over muscle/matter mentality I walked Pole Pole (slowly slowly) to the next camp. Steve and Stu helped me get my boot off and realised this was not a simple sprain. Nevertheless, I had no intention of turning around and with grit, determination, stubbornness, team support, prayer and an awful lot of ibroprofen, I made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro with my awesome team.

I climb mountains because I love being surrounded by God’s creation, and I climbed Kili to be at over 4000 metres before I’m 50 and to raise funds for free@last. With your continued support we are heading towards an amazing amount of money, to which I am truly thankful.

The things we do at free@last require us to be visionary, committed, passionate and stubborn, which reflects my life on the mountain. But we also need a huge amount of help, which we received from the team and our new G Adventure family. You can still be involved with our Kili experience and sponsor my insane journey of summiting Kilimanjaro with a fractured/broken/sprained foot (the hospital are dealing with any blood clotting first before they unearth the true damage of the ankle).

Please continue to financially support us: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/john-street-kili

One of our sponsors, Plan {b} Creative has also written a short piece about the climb, have a read here.

Thank you for all you have done. Enjoy the photos and please share this post as much as you can.

John 🙂

 

 

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Tresaith Youth Residential

It’s always a great time of the year when we can take our teenagers away on a residential, and this week we had a great time in a beautiful little coastal village in West Wales called Tresaith. We had 5 wonderful volunteers, on their first free@last residential, making it possible for 18 teenagers, aged 11 to 17, to have a fun, relaxing time. We enjoyed time on the beach, surf kayaking, coastline exploring, a day at Oakwood Theme Park, fish & chips on the conk at Tenby and a game of archery tag, amongst many other activities. Our young people are awesome, and we are so proud of them, not just for washing up but all the working together to make this an amazing holiday. Thank you to Sarah, Jille, Titch, Cal & Adam and to all the sponsors for making this possible – you’re all amazing.

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Queens Award for Voluntary Service

free@last is delighted to announce that we are honoured to have received the Queens Award for Voluntary Service. The tireless work of our team of volunteers, staff and supporters over the past 20 years has been recognised by the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.

We will be presented with the Award, by John Crabtree, Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands, during a ceremony later this year, and as part of the Award proceedings, John & Jan were privileged enough to represent free@last at a recent Garden Party at Buckingham Palace.

free@last is passionate about improving the lives of the children and young people in Nechells and we continue to work through the challenges that all voluntary organisations currently face, as well as the many local ones, so that we can provide the necessary support and a breadth of opportunities to broaden horizons and improve futures.

If you would like to become part of our award winning team then please get in touch with us by emailing info@freeatlast.st or calling 0121 327 5959

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Big Build Ball

Our young people had the opportunity to look stunning at our annual Big Build Ball, in aid of raising necessary funds to enable us to continue building the lives of our children and young people, to enable them to live life to the full. Once again it was expertly organised by the amazing Emma Jones from All in All Events, and located at the stunning venue for our 3rd year running. We had some 144 guests, which include 16 young people from Nechells, who’s places and outfits had been bought by some of our supporters. We also had some amazing raffles prizes, a special raffle of a bespoke tailor made suit from Adrian Barrows and a couture dress made by Julia Suzuki. We also had some amazing auction prizes donated from Wasps, Spencer Turner, Steve Saul, the Belfry and Kate Milton Travel; which all contributed to the £6,500 that we raised on the night.

Although this is a fundraiser, we see this more as a thank you to our supporters, who give their time, money and resources so generously throughout the year and to welcome new supporters to the free@last family. This was a fantastic night, which we thank all of you for, and we look forward to next year’s already. Thank you.

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Our Young people are on the telly!

We were approached by the amazing journalist, Peter Wilson, from the BBC, to film a piece about the demise of youth services having an impact on the rise of knife crime. Peter came to one of our youth clubs, where we were giving our new SuperDry clothes that had been donated by the company, and here he chatted with some of our young people and parents.

The short version

The full length version

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Nechells Lions FC v Smethwick FC

What an amazing game with a brilliant team spirit shown throughout the whole match, which showed in the result – we won 7-2!!

Our goal scorers were:

Subhaan x 1

Jahreal x 1

Wail x 1

JJ x 4

The man of the match went to KJ who is usually seen non-stop running around the field, but this time volunteered to be goal keeper and saved so many shots, he was superb.

Well done to everyone, and thank you to everyone who came to support us.

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Youth Club Feast

This week our secondary aged youth club celebrated Black History Month by tasting a variety of Caribbean food. Quite out of the ordinary they put the tables together, sat as a group around a table, shared food and spoke about where the food originated from and different flavours and ingredients used. This gave staff and young people the opportunity to engage with one another and have conversation relating to school, education, family life and hobbies and interests of the young people. Some young people said that it felt ‘weird’ as they don’t sit around the table at home with their families, however they all said that they enjoyed the experience and getting to know the staff and other young people more.

 

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