July 29, 2015

Charter School Comminuty Project – Weeds, weeds and more weeds.

After Glendale Services had done such a fantastic job on the brambles up at the Forest School site it really spurred me on the get up to the school with some of my colleagues to start work up there. So, on Tuesday 28th July myself, Jess, Kieran and my friend Imogen got our wellies on and went up to start clearing some of the easier areas that didn't require heavy machinery or chainsaws to do the work.

Jess and Kieran hard at work:

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We took a lovely picnic up there for our lunch and went to meet Georgette, the head teacher, and start work. The plot where the fire circle is going to be is full of spiky weeds and nettles so we started in this space, until Imogen suggested that we could take the top layer of turf and weeds off, put some weed reducing mesh down and then a layer of stones. This seemed like a much better idea so we had a short brainstorming session about where to go with this and decided that was the way forward and I would start to contact builders merchants to try and get some stone donated for this.

Imogen getting to work on the weeds in the tree area:

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After coming to a decision about the fire pit we moved to the area where the trees had been planted, by The University of Warwick Estates Department a few years ago, where the ground underneath the trees really needed clearing of weeds that had managed to grow up through the weed mesh.

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We cut back some of the tree growth at the bottom of some of the trees and cleared the ground underneath the trees ready for new bark chippings to be put down.

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Just as we were about to break for some lunch Roger Boxhill, head of grounds at the University and Wayne, one of the Estates gardeners came up to see me to have a chat about how they can get involved in the Forest School Project. I showed them round the site and chatted enthusiastically about my plans for the long term design and shape of the Forest School and they were glad to help and to get involved. Hopefully Estates will be able to come in at the start of autumn and help to clear the remaining brambles, once the fence has been moved forward to secure the whole of the Forest School site.

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We had a great day and what a productive start to the project! Really excited about getting going with some designs for the Forest School and getting organisations and businesses in Coventry and our students involved.


Charter School Community Project – First day on site

The Charter School Community Project is progressing now, after months of talks and meetings we are finally getting to the stage where the start of the physical work is taking place. The area where we are planning to create the Forest School is parly on the current school site and partly taking up some land which, before we had looked at recent plans provided by the council, we thought belonged to Network Rail. The new land is fenced in and was absolutely full to the brim with thick dense brambles.

Before photographs:

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At the last Canley Stakeholder's Committee meeting I attended, back in June, we discussed how we could start work on this patch of land and Joanna Selby from Whitefriars Housing suggested that she could speak to Glendale Services, who have a contract with Whitefriars, to see if they could help us out. The wonderful people at Glendale met Joanna and myself up at the site to have a look and agreed that we could have two of their workers for the day to see how far they could get.

Glendale Services making the first push on the bramble clearance:

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As you'll be able to see from the next photograph, Glendale managed to make a real dent in the brambles:

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The work undertaken by Glendale at the beginning of July got rid of a huge amount of brambles, ready for them to be excavated and the root balls removed, but there is still alot to do to clear the space. If you look to the back left of the last photograph you can see some reeds, these are where we plan to put the pond. There is a swail there to drain the water and this boggy, marshy bit of land is perfect for wildlife, just what we need!

Thank you so much to Glendale for helping us to start the work on the Forest School site, it is very much appreciated.


Charter School Community Project – July update

The Charter School Community Project has been in it's starting stages for a few months now while I have been looking at ways to fundraise and liaising with the school as to what step to take next. The project is long term and the more I look into it the bigger it seems - all the better for me as I love a challenge.

With regards to fundraising, we are currently at £749 of our target of £3000, which is to go towards training two members of school staff up to level 3 Forest School practitioners, so that they can run the Forest School, and to buy wet weather gear for one year of children. The money so far has been raised from two cake sales, some kindly donated FA Cup Final tickets and a sponsored silence, which was undertaken by myself and went down a little too well in my office!

Every year I put on a charity fun day in my local pub, The Old Clarence, in Earlsdon and this year I’ll be donating some of the money raised on the day to this project. This year’s event will be taking place on Saturday 29th August and will be from 12noon until 9pm. We have some fantastic local acoustic acts on all day followed by a DJ from 7-9pm playing Ska and 2Tone music, there will be a table top sale, cakes, tarot readings, wacky races, a balloon release, raffle and auction and we hope to raise lots of money for Charter Forest School and Myton Hospice.

Myton Hospice is a charity very close to my heart as they looked after my Dad for 5 weeks and gave him back so much dignity and treated him with such care and respect in his final days. I have nothing but good words to say about the organisation, they really are amazing people and I promised him that I would continue to raise money for them on his behalf to say thank you.

The Charter Primary Forest School Project is something we, the PAIS, Philosophy and Sociology admin team, have been working on since November and I have been attending all of the Canley Stakeholders Group meetings so know that the school and people in the community are very excited by this venture. Forest School will give the kids opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment and part of the project will see some of us going along to help out with clearing the area they will be using for the Forest School, planting, designing routes, building a fire circle and mud kitchen and helping to create an amazing outdoor learning environment.

As a department we, in PAIS, always try to do something for a good cause and this project will be something that will last and make a real impact in the local community. I am very proud to be leading this project and am excited to imagine how it will turn out when it is all finished.


February 20, 2015

Charter Forest School Community Project

Part of my role, here in the Department of Politics and International Studies, has evolved to include community and charity liaison and to manage charity events and fundraisers as well as working and communicating with members of the local community with regards to any projects we do as a department.

Back at the end of 2014 our Director of Administration, Jackie Smith, gave me a brief to organise something for the Politics, Philosophy and Sociology admin teams to do as our input into the University's 50th anniversary celebrations. I think Jackie was thinking something like a food bank collection but, as always, I like to think big and I promptly got on with researching what we can do in the local area that would make a difference. I started off by contacting Cllr Richard Dale, who is heavily involved in the Canley Regeneration Project and is Chair of the Canley Stakeholders Committee. I thought it would be good for us to take part in a community project in Canley as this is the area where the University has the most impact. I explained to Richard that I was looking for a project to take part in and he invited me along to the next Canley Stakeholders Committee at Charter Primary School. At the meeting I spoke to the stakeholders and asked if they could have a think about any projects they would like some help with, I explained that we had a team of people and were happy to take part in fundraising and also hands on work with anything they needed help with.

At the second meeting with the Canley Stakeholders Committee I heard all of the ideas for different projects and the one that caught my attention was a project at Charter School itself, to try and turn the school into a Forest School. Forest School is a philosophy and encompasses the idea of outdoor learning, it lets children explore the outdoors and learn about nature, the environment and the seasons in a safe setting whilst improving their basic skills. For further information on Forest Schools please see the website www.forestschools.comThe Forest School would be written into the curriculum and become part of their learning and is an amazing opportunity for children to get out of the traditional classroom environment.

After deciding that the Forest School project was the one we would help with I set up another meeting with George, the Chair of Governors at Charter School, along with Georgette, the head teacher and Carla, head of science, to discuss how we can plan the Forest School project and move it forward. It was amazing to meet with such like-minded and enthusiastic people and to meet some of the children who would get the benefits of the Forest School.

The next step was for us to visit a Forest School which had already been set up and running for a couple of years so one afternoon we piled into George's car and drove to Windy Arbour School in Chelmsley Wood. When we got to Windy Arbour there was a Forest School class in progress, 8 of the reception class were outside, in their wet weather clothing and wellies, searching for hedgehogs and building bug palaces and basically having a great time. The looks on their faces were priceless and it definitely convinced me that helping to create a Forest School at Charter Primary was the right thing to do.

The plans to take this project forward include raising £3000 towards the cost of wet weather clothing and wellington boots and training for two members of staff up to level 3 Forest School practitioner so that they can run the Forest School. It is going to be hard work raising the money but we have a Staff versus Students Community Challenge and a cake sale planned in March to start us off and I’m hoping we can brain storm some further ideas in our next meeting. This is a really exciting project that can leave a lasting legacy and make a difference to children’s education for years to come.


September 08, 2014

Summer Family Festival Day in aid of Myton Hospice

Charity Day

On Saturday 30th August I hosted a small festival day at my local pub in aid of Myton Hospice, who looked after my Dad in his last few weeks. Myton Hospice are an amazing charity who care for people with such compassion and respect. I decided to organise and host the fundraising day because Myton Hospice rely purely on donations and I had always promised my Dad I would raise some money for them on his behalf so that we could say thank you to them for being so kind and helping him live out his final days with dignity.

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The weeks and days leading up to the event were hard work and pretty stressful, I'd organised the event last year (in aid of CRASAC Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre)so knew what to expect but it seemed to grow this year and there was so much to do, and in my usual style, I'd left it to just 8 weeks before the event to start making concrete plans! I got my team of friends together and between us we made plots and plans, sewed bunting, brainstormed, booked bands, hired a PA system and I promoted the event on local radio stations, in the local papers, local residents associations and on social media. Word of mouth soon spread and everyone was getting really excited about the day.

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On the day of the event we were up at the Old Clarence, where the event was held, setting up stalls, tying bunting, putting up gazebo's and doing sound checks and we could feel the excitment building. Books

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At 12 noon the doors opened and people started to arrive, there was facepainting, a toy stall, some lovely cakes which were donated by friends and friends of friends, a bbq, space hopper races, art boards for the kids, a sweet stall and more, so there was plenty to keep everyone occupied. We even had a tarot reader, who was brilliant, everyone who went in to see her were amazed at how accurate she was.

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At 2pm the place was getting busy and we got the live music started.

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We had various live acts play throughout the day from 2-5.45 and then had a break to draw the raffle and hold the auction. We'd been donated lots of great prizes and managed to get hold of some rare Coventry City memorabilia for the auction. It was great fun and we managed to raise alot of money for the charity through the raffle and auction.

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After the auction we had a balloon release. Throughout the day we'd been selling balloons for a donation and for each one bought we gave the buyer a tag to write a message to a loved one they'd lost, then when it got tp 6.30 we had tied all of the tags onto helium filled balloons and released them over Hearsall Common to the sounds of Elbow, One Day Like This in the background. It was a beautiful and emotional moment and was a nice way to move into the evening's entertainment, which started with live electronic music from Vieon, complete with smoke machines and laser show, followed by tunes from Tabro T.

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The whole day went perfectly, I couldn't have asked for anything more. There were smiling, happy faces all day, the atmosphere was amazing and everyone was so generous with their time, ideas and money.

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We managed to raise nearly £2000 on the day and more through donations from those who couldn't make it on the JustGiving page I set up in my Dad's name, where money goes directly to Myton Hospice. Putting on the charity day this year was so enjoyable and the day itself made all the sleepless nights and hard work worthwhile and I hope I made my Dad proud.

If you would like to keep track of where I am with my fundraising or make a small donation to the charity please go to the JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/charlotte-lewis10/


March 26, 2013

Politics Society Sleepout 2013

Writing about web page http://www.coventrycyrenians.co.uk/

At the beginning of February I recieved an email from Charlie, the Politics Society's charity representative, telling me about their new links with Coventry Cyrenians, a charity supporting homeless men and women in Coventry. As soon as I heard that they were getting involved with Coventry Cyrenians I wanted to join in whatever was going on to try and help out this amazing charity who do so much to help people living on the streets. So, I contacted Charlie and offered my support with their fundraising event for this year, which turned out to be a sponsored sleepout - in February! Now, I'm no stranger to sleeping outside, I've been to many festivals and camping trips, and even did the Cyrenians sleepout back in...oooh, let me see...well, you don't need to know when it was but it was a pretty long time ago when I was at school, but a sleepout - in February?. Still, I decided that, as it was for a great local charity, a bit of cold wouldn't hurt us. For the next few weeks I put up posters about the event and pestered my PaIS colleagues with emails asking for sponsorship and counted down the days until our sleepout. It's fair to say that by the time the day came I was not really looking forward to it. In hindsight we were very lucky as the weather has got worse as February/March has gone on but it was very, very cold.

On the morning of Wednesday 27th February I came into work as usual, the day was mainly spent promoting the event to everyone who asked me about it and telling people about the great work that Cyrenians do. I got home from work and had a nice hot cup of tea and some dinner and at 7pm that evening I got my sleeping bag and bottle of water and walked the long walk up Spencer Road towards the main entrance of The Memorial Park in Coventry. Here I met Charlie and another 5 members of the Politics Society and we wandered into the park to meet up with Helen, a Cyrenians worker who had come down to have a chat with us about the event. Helen told us about the work they do at Cyrenians and kindly donated a few blankets to put on the ground to sleep on (this was a lifesaver as the ground was so cold and all we had were the clothes we stood in and our sleeping bags), then another 3 people from Cyrenians came to meet us as they were goiong to be spending the night sleeping rough with us so they too could empathise a little more with the people they worked with on a day to day basis. Helen took a few photos and went on her way, then our night of sleeping rough really began. We set up our sleeping bags next to the War Memorial, which maybe wasn't the best place as it was extremely windy and very exposed; the workers from Cyrenians told us that homeless people would be more likely to sleep where there was light and more shelter, but we stayed where we are and settled into our sleeping bags, on top of the donated blankets, on top of the cold, hard stone of the War Memorial.

Cyrenians Sleepout

The night started off ok and I was extremely happy when Cyrenians pulled out a hot flask of coffee and some Baileys , it certainly warmed me up but I regretted it later when the caffeine kicked in and it was even harder to sleep! I don't know how people sleep on the streets at night...I admit, even through all of my bravado, that I was a bit nervous about being so exposed out in the dark at night and it must be awful to have to do it on your own, without the protection of being in a group. We all got as comfy as we could and chatted away between ourselves until James Bevis arrived to tell us about his experiences of living on the streets. James is a Warwick student who spent 9 days over Christmas living on the streets of London, on his own, to raise money for homeless charities. He managed to raise about £27,000 so his experience was very inspiring. If you go on You Tube you should be able to find some of his video diaries from his time on the streets, they are definitely worth a watch. We all sat and chatted to James and asked how he coped. James told me the worse thing was the isolation and reactions of others to homeless people, one example being when someone threw a vodka bottle at him. Eventually everyone started to drift off to sleep; the War Memorial hummed with the sound of contented snorers and the wind whistled round the trees, the lights at the pavillion went off and everything was plunged into darkness...but I still couldn't sleep! As much as I tried to curl up into a ball and pull my sleeping bag hood over my face, I was still absolutely freezing and couldn't get one wink of sleep.

All in all it was a very difficult night, I took my gloves off at one point and forgot to put them back on for an hour or so - my hands were so cold and I struggled to warm them up again. I also took off my glasses for a while and when I went to put them back on again they had a layer of ice over the lense. Another low point was having to sneak off in the dark and find a tree to go to pee behind, this wasn't so bad when it was dark but as the sun rose in the morning it really made me think about the difficulties of being homeless - just not being able to do the things you take from granted when you have a flat or house; things like going to the loo, washing your hands, brushing your teeth, making a hot drink. Aside from the aforementioned toilet issues, the moment I saw the sun come up was a happy one and I can honestly say I've never been so pleased to get out of bed of a morning.

At about 7am the birds were singing, the sunshine shone on the dewy grass...it all looked beautiful, but, in all honesty, we all felt like crying. People started to wake up one by one and joggers and early morning dog walkers started to appear - this was the moment we all felt real isolation. I was amazed at how invisible we all were - 10 people in sleeping bags and noone could see us! People either jogged straight past, without so much of a flicker of recognition in their eyes, or they would give us looks of utter disgust.

When I was in the final year of my degree I interviewed 4 homeless men as part of one of my final degree projects back in 2011 and the one thing we all wholeheartedly agreed on is that there are lots of poeple in this country who are only 2-3 pay cheques away from being homeless. Imagine if you lost your job, couldn't pay bills or rent, couldn't afford food, had to borrow money that you couldn't pay back and then ended up on the slippery slope to homelessness - it is easier done than many people think! One woman in particular, on that cold morning in the park, I found very rude and wondered what she would do if she found herself out of work and in a situation she couldn't get herself out of? Her dog ran over to us and I said good morning to the lady and bent down to stroke the dog, she obviously didn't hear me as she ignored me completely and started shouting her dog over. The dog then ignored her and I, again, said good morning and, again, she ignored me and continued to call the dog. Eventually the dog went back to it's owner, and after saying "Good morning" three times I eventually got a grunt in return. I would have loved to have known what was going through her head when she saw us, it made me so sad to think that people have to put up with that kind of prejudice every day and have to deal with the isolation that comes from living on the streets.

The walk home that day was a quiet one; everyone was tired and slightly emotional but I knew we all felt the same and that the night sleeping rough had really given us a small insight into the struggles of having to sleep rough and not have a place to call home. The team from Cyrenians also said the same and I think that experience will stay with us forever. I think we all got so much out of this event and the fact that we managed to raise about £700 for Coventry Cyrenians was a huge bonus. Once I got home I started to warm up and my feet began to get some feeling back in them, I'd booked the day off work so was lucky that I could have a day of sleeping and relaxing and keeping warm, unlike those living on the streets who would have to do that all over again the next night. One thing that really got to me was the dampness, everything feels so damp, and to think of poeple having to do that night after night without having anywhere to get warm or dry off is the saddest thing. Coventry Cyrenians have an outreach team who try to help people in this situation and try to give them hope that there is an alternative to life on the streets. Please go to the Coventry Cyrenians webpages to find out more about this amazing charity and what they do as they make a huge difference to people's lives who otherwise have no hope.


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