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The Friday Blog

And the Winner is... 

Friday, August 29, 2014 9:14:37 AM

Merlin Housing Summer Fun DayFrom abseiling to half marathons, cake sales to fancy dress days, every year Merlin Housing Society staff take on several challenges to raise funds for our charity of the year. In fact, over the past three years we’ve raised more than £13,000 for our nominated charities and the amount we raise increases every year. We're delighted to say that over the next 12 months we’re going to be raising money for Brandon Trust.

This year we decided we’d ask residents to vote for our charity of the year at our annual fun day in Filton. Our staff put forward 12 charities and each charity was invited to come along on the day to talk to residents and persuade them to vote for them.

We were really impressed with the dedication and enthusiasm of the two volunteers from Brandon Trust. A number of residents said that although they hadn’t heard of the charity before the event, they were so impressed with what they’d heard from the volunteers that they voted for them, rather than for the bigger, and perhaps more well-known charities.

Over recent years we've built up a great relationship with the charity, which provides vital services and support to some of our residents. We've also seen the great work of their Fired Up ceramics studio when they attended our Christmas fair to sell their pottery. So we know first-hand how the money we raise enriches and transforms the lives of the people they support.

We're now starting to plan some fundraising events so we can make sure we raise as much money as possible for Brandon Trust to enable people with learning disabilities and autism to set thMerlin Housing Society logoemselves free and live a life with fewer limitations.

Hywel Lloyd
Merlin Housing Society

A Wet and Wild Summer Camp 

Friday, August 22, 2014 8:03:38 AM

Group shot from the Bristol summer camp 2014

What an amazing time we had at this year’s annual summer camp, despite the heavy downpours.

Young people, support staff and volunteers spent a fun-packed week at Woodlands Scout Camp in Almondsbury, on the outskirts of Bristol. It was like one big reunion for those who have returned every year since the project started in 2010, but it was also great to meet new faces.

Amongst the on-site activities everyone could take part in were; high and low ropes, crate stacking, the leap of faith, go-karting, climbing and abseiling. Unfortunately the heavy rain, thunder and lightning abruptly halted the fun on Sunday when the climbing tower had to be evacuated for safety reasons!

We also made off-site trips to Elm Tree Farm and Splinters wood workshop in Stapleton. Making planters at Lawrence Weston Community Farm was a resounding success, and a trip to Fired Up, a ceramics workshop in Pucklechurch, was as popular as always.

A rather wet and muddy Friday was spent pushing ourselves round the assault course; some youngsters even chose to complete it several times!

The week drew to a conclusion with yet more water, although this was not what Mother Nature inflicted. On this occasion, it was the It's a Knockout event and, as usual, everyone within range got completely soaked and covered in foam, courtesy of the week’s highlight; a foam cannon. To round things off we donned our dancing shoes for the disco and live DJ, compliments of Neil Pfister.

Once again, the week-long camp was a great success! I'd like to say thank you to everyone who helped organise it, our dedicated staff and volunteers, and more importantly the young people who attended and gave it their all. It was incredible to witness the displays of courage in achieving and combating personal worries and fears.

There is no doubt that next year will again bring much fun and laughter, personal challenges, and liberating freedom. Brandon Trust encourages everyone to reach for their dreams and live a life with fewer limitations.

See you all next year!

Lisa Galsworthy
Team Leader

Foodbanks: Supporting Our Community 

Friday, August 15, 2014 8:20:45 AM

The @Worle Volunteers with the Trussell Trust teamAs part of my role as a Project Leader at Brandon Trust, I regularly work with a group of students with learning disabilities from @Worle, in Weston-super-Mare.

The students volunteer for a few hours each week with the Trussell Trust, who run a local foodbank in Weston. The Trussell Trust collect donations of food to give out as emergency supplies to help local people in crisis.

It’s a fantastic thing that we’re doing and the students are all benefiting enormously from gaining an awareness of other people’s needs whilst developing an understanding of working with others. The group love the inclusive environment they work in and they tell me that they enjoy helping others; for some this is a whole new experience.

The recent financial downturn has impacted greatly for many, resulting in a sharp rise in foodbanks within our community. In fact, over 13 million people across the UK now live below the poverty line. Rising food and fuel prices, static incomes, underemployment and changes to benefits are some of the reasons why increasing numbers are being referred to foodbanks for emergency food. During 2013-14, foodbanks fed 913,138 people nationwide. Of those helped, 330,205 were children. These are alarming statistics. (statistics provided by the Trussell Trust)

Ian, one of the students I support said: “I check the dates to make sure the food is okay and I also divide the sugar up into bags. I think it’s a really nice place to do voluntary work because it’s such a good atmosphere down there; we are such a good team. It’s awesome helping other people.”

You can find out more about the Trussell Trust in Weston by visiting www.wsmfoodbank.org.uk.

Michele Ryan
Project Leader

A Rewarding Experience 

Friday, August 08, 2014 8:36:13 AM

Stephen enjoying his freshly decorated roomI work in the payroll department, based at our head office in Bristol. My team recently volunteered to paint the room of someone we support, which gave us the chance to get out of the office and into the services to see what goes on day-to-day. For me, it was a chance to see what Brandon Trust is all about. I’ve only been working here a few months and this was my first visit to any of our support services.

I will admit, I didn’t know what to expect. What I will say though on the back of the experience, is how much I enjoyed it. From the moment I walked in, I felt welcome. The support staff were friendly and accommodating and Stephen was very excited that we were going to paint his room; he’d already chosen the colour. He showed us around his home and was very chatty.

It is definitely something I'm glad to have had the opportunity to do. It really brings home what our charity does and how we support people and set them free to live their lives as they choose, and with fewer limitations. I hope this is something I'll get the chance to do again sometime.

Neil Gardiner
Payroll Manager

On Your Bike 

Friday, August 01, 2014 8:51:53 AM

Lawyers from Osborne Clarke donating bikes to Brandon's bike projectThe idea of lawyers building bikes might seem a bit odd at first, but at Osborne Clarke we’re always looking for interesting team-building activities and also for ways to help the communities we work in. So, when we came across a company called Charity Bike Build, we liked the sound of it.

That initial idea led to three of our legal teams - Business Transactions, Real Estate and Litigation - stepping away from contracts, caveats and cases to spend a day getting to grips with the nuts and bolts (literally) of bikes.

As you’d expect, the day involved slightly more than just putting a bike together. First the lawyers split into teams to plan their build, learning new project management skills along the way. They then learnt the bike-building skills they’d need. Then came a tough challenge – negotiating with other teams for missing parts and earning tools through various activities. Finally, the bikes were checked by a professional to make sure they were roadworthy.

As you can see, we got a lot out of building the bikes. Even better, they will continue to create value as part of Brandon Trust’s Bike Project at Elm Tree Farm. We hope the bikes have many years of happy use ahead of them!

Nick Wright
CSR Co-ordinator, Osborne Clarke

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