How Children in Need reaches out to support Leeds’s charities

PROJECT: Young mum Alisha De Riggs, left, and youth development worker Zara Marcus of Getaway Girls.
PROJECT: Young mum Alisha De Riggs, left, and youth development worker Zara Marcus of Getaway Girls.
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Children’s lives across Leeds have been transformed with the help of kind-hearted donations made to Children in Need every year. Laura Bowyer finds out more about how the charity has helped to make an impact in the city.

If it wasn’t for the support of Children in Need then young mum Alisha De Riggs fears she would be living in social isolation.

She came to Leeds from London soon after her 21-month-old son Kasim Distin was born.

She didn’t know the area and she had no idea how to use the buses.

But after spending over a year with the Getaway Girls project in Harehills, which supports young mums, she has grown in confidence and made new friends.

Alisha is among hundreds of youngsters in Leeds who have received an extra helping hand from Children in Need.

Over the last year the charity has supported 21 projects in the city to the tune of £1.3m.

Across Yorkshire more than 140 schemes have benefited from more than £7.2m worth of funding from Pudsey Bear and friends.

Getaway Girls received funding from the charity to help employ a youth development worker and set up a young mum’s group each week.

The project supports around 400 girls a year, many of whom come from broken and abusive homes, have addiction issues or may be teenage mums.

The group offers support and advice and helps young mums to budget their money and learn new skills.

Over the years the charity has worked with children as young as 13 to help raise their aspirations and provide emotional support for them.

Alisha, who dreams of becoming a midwife, said: “I think the support is great.

“I don’t think I would be where I am now if I didn’t have the young mums group because it has built me up.

“You feel comfortable here and it’s like a second home because you can just pop in anytime and they will have five minutes to talk to you.

“My son really enjoys it too because he learnt how to play with people.

“This was the first time he had played with children all together and it has built up my confidence.”

Over the months the group has helped and supported Alisha to gain qualifications and given her advice about how to become a midwife.

She also took part in a recent intergenerational scheme that saw mums work with the community to create a mural for St James’ Hospital to show what it’s like to be a mum through the ages.

Youth development worker Zara Marcus said: “Without the money we wouldn’t be able to run.

“The girls wouldn’t be able to have the support networks available to them.

“Sometimes they don’t have anyone else or don’t know who to turn to.

“They become almost like one big family.”

But finding the money to support groups such as Getaway Girls is hard to come by in the current financial climate.

Children in Need has proved to be a vital source to help maintain groups and projects in the community who may struggle to secure grants.

Zara added: “Funding is hard to come by and we are really grateful to Children in Need.

“Hopefully we can secure funding so the group can carry on in the long term.

“We want to be able to provide support.”

Since Children in Need started in 1980 over £650m has been raised to make a real difference to the lives of disadvantaged youngsters across the country.

The BBC started running a children’s charity campaign since its inception in 1927 and the first appeal was launched on Christmas Day.

But in 1985 charity mascot Pudsey Bear made his television debut with Sir Terry Wogan, and a star was born.

The then brown, cuddly face of the appeal was designed by BBC graphics designer Joanna Ball who named him after the Leeds market town where she was born.

Pudsey proved stunningly popular and returned as the appeal’s official logo the following year with his design amended to that of a yellow bear with a red spotted bandage.

Last year, BBC Children in Need raised a record-breaking £46million.

Sarah Monteith, director of marketing and fundraising, said: “We are so grateful for the support we receive from the public year on year to help us make changes to as many disadvantaged children and young people’s lives as possible.

“It is really important that everyone sees their fundraising and donations working in their local area.

“We hope that this will encourage people to show their spots and raise lots for us again this year.”

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