Sarah Haughey, a first year Sociology student, found the time, money and energy to set up a breakfast club for local children.
In May 2016 Sarah was highly commended in the University's Making a Difference Awards for setting up and running the club with her friend, Jennie Wadsworth.
The club provides a free breakfast and activities for local children every day in the school holidays. This helps to combat poverty and social exclusion.
We asked Sarah how she got involved with community schemes and how she manages to fit them around her studies.
What was your role in the M32 Free Breakfast project?
My role was to set it up, ‘blag’ and to find the money from somewhere!
My friend and colleague Jennie Wadsworth and I have been closely involved with a local Sure Start Children Centre for several years. During the first round of austerity cuts four years ago we had to campaign to keep it open.
During the campaign we did a research-based analysis of the area in order to prove that we needed our centre to stay open. It is one of only two left in the borough. I am proud to now chair the Advisory Board for Sure Start in the area.
The data showed us that there are real problems of poverty and isolation on our own doorstep. We thought that the school holidays must be a real challenge if one is alone or struggling for any reason.
From this, we decided to open a breakfast club, and we are now in our third year.
We open every day of the school holidays (Monday to Friday) in our local park. We also volunteer there so get to use a community building free of charge.
We had no idea if there was any need or want for this and thought we'd get some money and see if it worked. And it did.
How easy was it to fit this around your studies?
It has been hard this year as I have to work round my course, my kids, my life and my other stuff!
I don't have the same holidays as school (which is a bit difficult at half term etc). Jennie and I co-ordinate holidays and I tend to do the bulk of Xmas and summer, and she covers half terms.
We are lucky enough to be established now and to have volunteers and friends who come to help out now, plus we know what we're doing!
Why did you think it was important?
I think it is vital that children do not suffer as a result of austerity or of chaotic lifestyles.
I can't abide the idea of someone not being able to feed themselves and not have someone to hang out with.
If there is something I can do help resolve this then I will do it. I wanted to do something that was non-stigmatising and open to anyone. We don’t ask anyone to bring a benefit book for obvious reasons. Above all, we wanted it to be fun that might lead to some kind of community cohesion and inclusivity. So we started Our Kids.
We employ a member of the community to do sports. For two hours, every morning of every school holiday the park is a hive of activity.
I love the mix of families we get. I love that the kids get to see their mates from school and their parents and carers get to drink tea, eat toast and feel part of something. We have some families who can easily afford to be elsewhere but they come because it's easy. On the donations we get we can buy the stuff for those who can't afford to put in and who have restricted choices.
We work with the Trussell Trust Foodbank at Stretford and with Trafford Housing Trust and we have been lucky enough to work closely with Kellogg’s.
By nature I am nosy so can signpost people to things like the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. We have a close link with our local MP, Kate Green, and our Councillors, all of whom have volunteered alongside us. We have been very lucky with all the support we have for the scheme.
What future plans do you have for the scheme?
We want to carry on, the will is there. When it's no longer fun (or no longer needed which would be the ideal) then we can look at something else, some kind of youth club, veg-patch-to-table project involving community cooking and feeding. I hope to be involved with this project as long as it runs as it is close to my heart and I am really proud of it.
Would you encourage others to get involved with the wider Manchester community? Why?
Oh yes, emphatically yes!
I absolutely love wandering round and sticking my nose into stuff. I love people knowing which are my kids and ditto me with theirs.
I love hosting community barbecues where people come out en masse and hang about in the park, have a kickabout and sit around chatting to people they might not have known before.
The funds we raise at the barbecues go on to fund our project and to pay things like 'liability insurance' and all the dull stuff that goes alongside a community project.
On top of that I get a real buzz off doing it. I didn't expect to feel as protective and proud of it, but can honestly say, it has really made a difference to our community and to families. That's what we wanted it to do.