2 June 2019

The week that was - UKFast at the Seashell Trust

The UKFast team helping out in the community.

I was disappointed to read this week that the number of people donating to charity in the UK has dropped to 57%.

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) estimates that there has been a downward trend over the course of the past three years in line with scandals across the sector, reducing the trust that people have in the industry.

These numbers comes as we are seeing an increase in the number of people needing an extra helping hand. The Trussell Trust, which runs one of the country’s largest food bank networks, gave out 1.6 million emergency three-day food packages in the past financial year – a rise of 73% over two years.

This is an absolutely shocking number. Many attribute this to the change in the benefits system, that from the outside has certainly seemed chaotic. Whatever the cause is, it’s a crisis.

Unfortunately, there also seems to be rising intolerance and anger in Britain as people’s frustrations with Brexit and the government continue. However this is the time when we need to start looking out for one another.

Making a change

In recent years, Gail and I have become acutely aware of the challenges of communities in Greater Manchester. We’ve reached out to a number of initiatives in the community to see how we can help, particularly since UKFast’s Director of CSR joined the team.

In the past couple of weeks we cemented this support for the community with a £5 million donation to a UKFast charitable trust to really support the communities in which we live. Our Trust website is in development, and will become a hub for how to get involved and how to apply for funding. 

community giving back at UKFast

The UKFast team making the most of our 5,000 hours volunteering initiative.

There have been so many conversations about the potentially devastating consequences of the lack of technical skills in the digital industries. More than ten years ago, industry leaders were discussing this in a round table debate. I left galvanised. I knew that we had to do something. The national curriculum at the time was lacking and the stats were poor for technical qualifications.

After more than a decade, the picture is improving. We’re seeing more people becoming passionate about the digital industry and digital skills, and there is more diversity in the industry too. However, there is still some way to go.

That’s why one of the tenets of the Trust that we have launched is education. It is so important for young people to have access to careers in the digital industries regardless of their background. There’s a huge gap in access to technology – how can we expect young people to become passionate about technology if they can’t access any devices either in school or at home.

Education first

We’ve even seen children learning how to code in schools using pencil and paper because the school simply cannot afford the tech suites needed. That’s where I absolutely commend tech innovation of the Raspberry Pi micro computer. These tiny machines offer an affordable PC option for people of all ages to tinker with without worrying about breaking a computer worth hundreds of pounds.

Over the past years, we’ve introduced tech suites created with these micro-computers. We’ve built these at schools and community centres all across Greater Manchester and even as far as South Africa. The impact has been extraordinary.

Russell Feingold UKFast - community and charity

Russell Feingold, director of CSR and fundraising.

But it is not just about education. How can we expect children to be excited to learn when they aren’t receiving the food that they need to have any energy to get through the day. Last year, for the first time, we support several Holiday Hunger initiatives. These are community groups that provide fun activities for children with a healthy, hearty meal during the school holidays. These are an essential support for so many families to cover the cost of extra food when children are not attending school during the holidays so aren’t receiving their free school meals.

This year, with this trust, we will continue to support initiatives just like these. We’ve a few things to announce in the coming weeks. I hope these initiatives will not only have a lasting impact on those who need that extra support, but also to inspire others to help in their community too.

Always learning

The greatest thing that we have learned is that it is essential to learn how to help. You cannot have a lasting, wide-reaching impact if you just assume what’s needed. You have to listen to people in the community to find out what they need.

Russell, Gail and our director of education Aaron, have spent years learning how we can really make the most of the Trust. We want to ensure that we have a sustained, long-lasting impact on as many people as possible.

We’re working to do what we can, as are so many other incredible businesses, but there is so much more that we can do. If you ever want to chat with Russell to share what we’ve learned or to put forward your ideas, please reach out over social media.

In a time when people seem angrier and more frustrated than ever, why not channel your energy into being a force for good.

 

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