17 June 2018
Our future is in the hands of the next generation. It’s that simple.
So, when I heard that the number of children living in poverty surged by 100,000 to 4.1 million in just one year, my heart sank.
Children across the country are going to school without the absolute basics. I’m not talking about unclean uniforms, worn shoes or a lack of stationery (which are all real issues); I am talking about food.
This stat accounts for more than 30% of children in the UK. A third of children in our country are living in poverty. It’s inconceivable.
So what do we do?
I am incredibly proud of the work we’ve done through UKFast with education and young people so far, and we’re only just getting started. We work with more than 60,000 children and young people across 50 schools and universities to help bring hands-on access to technology that standard schooling just can’t provide.
Creating Raspberry Pi Cafes, we’re able to give young people the ability to tinker with the technology without risking breaking hundreds of pounds worth of technology. These microcomputers costs tens of pounds each, rather than hundreds. We use these, either connected to monitors and keyboards in a standard PC setup, or to power robotics and special projects. It’s extraordinary what can be achieved with these tiny pieces of technology.
But before even thinking about installing technology like this, we have to cover the basics.
Around the corner from UKFast Campus in Hulme there are children not only going without their breakfast – their most important meal of the day – they have little to nothing for their lunches either.
With the national welfare support system in chaos and school cuts left, right and centre, there’s no wonder that the most in-need section of our society is falling further and further into greater need. Yet it’s not a widely understood issue – the numbers are shocking.
When we met with Holy Name RC Primary School last year, we started a conversation about installing a Raspberry Pi Cafe, Code Clubs and how we can support the school’s technical education.
The school is absolutely outstanding. The little ones there are confident, bright and chatty. The team are just as remarkable.
So when Gail and I heard that they were running a breakfast club out of the teacher’s goodwill, we knew we wanted to step in. Thanks to cuts to school funding, there was a possibility that the club would no longer be an option. Previously children had been arriving at school with empty stomachs.
The club had been running for a few years and offered free breakfast to the pupils. When the school introduced a 20p per day – that’s £1 per week – charge to help pay for the club, the club’s numbers fell from around 80 to just 20 children.
It’s remarkable that £1 per week can make sure a difference but it can.
Education is one of the very cornerstones of building the next generation, not only academically but socially, physical education and beyond. To expect a child to be able to learn, make friends and exercise on an empty stomach is unthinkable.
UKFast, Gail and I are supporting Holy Name RC’s Breakfast Club, funding the food and team to run it. We’ve committed to ensuring that not only are we installing the technology there to help the children learn, we’re also ensuring they’ve got the fuel in their tummies to be able to learn too.
It’s one of the greatest initiatives that we’ve ever been involved with and I am hugely proud to be able to help out in this way.
Whilst it could be said that it is not our responsibility to step in in this way, it’s down to the government, in fact, it is our responsibility. When the government are announcing cuts and focussed on other areas, who is there to help these children in poverty? We have to be.
Each and every one of us has the ability to step in and make a difference. A real, life-changing, impactful difference. Among these children could be the next Marie Curie, the next Stephen Hawking or Shakespeare, the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. If we don’t nurture them, we’ll never know.
Time to step up
We are lucky to be resource rich in the business arena. Every business has something that it could offer, even if that’s value in kind rather than cash. You could share your space for charity meetings, you could offer some services for free, you could volunteer your time. There is so much more that can be done.
At UKFast, we’re learning more and more about the impact that we can have in the wider community. How to give back to the very community that helped us to grow into who we are today. With the help of our new Director of CSR Russell Feingold, we’re reaching out to more charities and projects than ever. We’re learning how we can have the biggest impact for the most people.
Ultimately, it’s all of our responsibility to step in where we see a gap, a need. How could you do more? I’d love to hear your ideas about community projects that we could help with.