Celebrity speakers headline virtual Volunteer Expo event backed by Warwickshire Rotary Clubs

Celebrity speakers headline virtual Volunteer Expo event backed by Warwickshire Rotary Clubs

The Rotary Clubs in Warwickshire are getting behind a new, national event to help more people find volunteering opportunities and build a legacy of generosity and community from the pandemic.

Volunteer Expo Online, which is being hosted by Rotary in Great Britain and Ireland, is taking place virtually on 7th and 8th May. The free event will connect individuals and organisations from across society to inspire and celebrate those who love to give something back.

Volunteering Expo, Rotary Club, Frank Bruno, Ben Fogle, Brooke Kinsella

Headline speakers include award-winning broadcaster and adventurer Ben Fogle and former heavyweight boxer and mental health campaigner Frank Bruno.

A recent survey by the Together Coalition found that an estimated 12.4 million people have volunteered during the Covid-19 pandemic, and 4.6 million of those did so for the first time.

Volunteer Expo Online will help even more people find meaningful volunteering opportunities to suit their interests, time commitments and desire to make a difference.

The event will feature over 60 virtual exhibition stands, with visitors being able to chat and meet with a range of local, national and international charities and social impact organisations, including Age UK, Dementia UK, Alzheimer’s Society, ShelterBox, Cancer Research UK, Barnardo’s, The Salvation Army, St John Ambulance, Motor Neurone Disease Association, RSPB, Lepra, Home Start and The Royal Air Forces Association and Army Cadets.

On the bill for the two-day event is a speaker line up, featuring celebrity campaigners, sector leaders and volunteer heroes sharing their stories of volunteering.

With decades of adventures and travelling under his belt, Ben Fogle has countless lessons to share on the natural world and inspirational stories to tell of personal perseverance.

Volunteering Expo, Rotary Club, Frank Bruno, Ben Fogle, Brooke Kinsella
Headline speaker Ben Fogle

He is known for presenting numerous programmes, including Animal Park and Countryfile, and has travelled to over 200 places around the world during his broadcasting career.

Also among the line-up are:

Actress Brooke Kinsella who has campaigned against knife crime following the murder of her brother in 2008. She also founded a Trust in his memory.

BBC Radio 1 presenter and author Katie Thistleton whose work around mental health awareness includes ambassador roles with Place2be and YoungMinds charities. She is also a trained counsellor.

Catherine Johnstone CBE is the Chief Executive of the Royal Voluntary Service and formerly held the same post at The Samaritans.

Broadcaster Steve Brown became paralysed after falling from a balcony aged just 23 but went on the captain Great Britain’s wheelchair rugby team in the London 2012 Paralympics.

Sisters Amy and Ella Meek are Founders of Kids Against Plastic, a charity which is empowering young people to protect the environment. Over the last year they have helped pick up over 65,000 pieces of single use plastic and made over 50 cafés, schools, businesses and festivals ‘Plastic Clever’.

Sarah Vibert is currently the interim Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), and was formerly the Director of Membership and Engagement. Sarah has held a number of leadership roles in the voluntary sector; most recently as Chief Executive of umbrella charity The Neurological Alliance and is also a Trustee of The Brain and Spine Foundation.

Sanj Srikanthan is the Chief Executive of disaster response charity, ShelterBox. Sanj has been leading teams in adversity over the last two decades; from peacekeeping operations on the Iran-Iraq border, to responding to Ebola outbreaks in Liberia.

Through his roles both as Chief Executive of The Scouts and the National Union of Students, and as a current trustee of Step Up To Serve, Matt Hyde has helped change the conversation around youth volunteering, attracting support and investment to grow youth social action.

A former member of a notorious Birmingham gang, Simeon Moore now tackles the glamorisation of gang culture to young people. Describing his gangster lifestyle as a “mental prison”, Simeon lifted himself from a life of crime and uses the power of music to educate the lives of others.

Volunteering Expo, Rotary Club, Frank Bruno, Ben Fogle, Brooke Kinsella

Colin Winstone, spokesperson for Warwickshire Rotary, said: “The idea behind Rotary first launching this event back in 2019 was to highlight the amazing impact that volunteering makes to society. Little did we know that the world would be in a very different place a few years on.

“Although a lot in society has changed, many things possibly permanently, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown into sharp focus not only the need for volunteers, but the appetite people have to pull together in their community.”

“We hope that Volunteer Expo can be a part of that legacy and leave a positive impact going forward. It’s a great chance to learn more about how you can help. I find volunteering hugely rewarding and fun on a personal level, and would encourage people, whether a new or existing volunteer, to join us.”

Visitors will also enjoy a packed programme of workshops covering everything from mental health to plastic pollution and disability-inclusive volunteering to digital fundraising.

To find out more about what’s in store for the event, and book your free tickets, head to www.volunteerexpo.co.uk

Egg-straordinary effort to spread cheer this Easter

Egg-straordinary effort to spread cheer this Easter

A WARWICK charity is helping to bring some seasonal cheer to poorly children over the Easter period.

Molly Olly’s Wishes has been busy delivering more than 300 chocolate eggs and teddies to community nurses and volunteers at South Warwickshire Foundation Trust Community Children’s Nursing Team for distribution to children across the area.

The eggs haul comes courtesy of Warwickshire Freemasons and staff at international automotive manufacturing company Grupo Antolin, which has local sites in Warwick and Coventry.

Molly Olly's Wishes, Rachel Ollerenshaw, Warwickshire Freemasons, Easter eggs
Peter Hall and Rachel Ollerenshaw with Olly The Brave and eggs.

Molly Olly’s Wishes was established in 2011 following the death of Rachel and Tim Ollerenshaw’s eight-year-old daughter Molly from a rare kidney cancer.

The charity works to support children with terminal or life-limiting illnesses and their families and help with their emotional wellbeing as well as grant wishes and donate therapeutic toys and books to both children directly and to hospitals throughout the UK.

Mascot of the charity is a therapeutic toy lion called Olly The Brave who has his own Hickman line and a detachable mane which helps to explain and normalise the effects of chemotherapy. These form part of an Olly The Brave pack that has now been handed out to more than 40 hospitals, along with a book from the charity’s exclusive Olly The Brave series.

Part of more than £2.5m raised to date, has also been used to fund the first Molly Olly consultant in paediatric medicine at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Rachel Ollerenshaw said: “Molly Olly’s are very grateful to both Grupo Antolin and Peter Manning and the members of the Warwickshire Freemasons for all the eggs and teddies that they have very kindly donated. It gives us all a lot of pleasure to see the big smiles when the eggs are delivered.

“Simple gifts can lift children’s spirits when they are facing very challenging circumstances and it lets them know that people are thinking about them. This is an initiative that the charity have done for many years and both the nurses and families are very grateful to receive them.”

The Warwickshire Freemasons, which have presented a total of £150,000 to local charities throughout the pandemic, have now also donated more than 3,500 eggs to, among others, Acorns Hospice, Warwick Refuge, Shipston Food Bank, The Salvation Army and Coventry Haven.

Peter Manning, Deputy Provincial Grand Master, said: “Molly Olly’s a super local charity that does a tremendous amount of good and because they run it themselves and have very few overheads, you know that all the money goes where you want it to go.

“We would like to say a big thank you to Morrison’s Store at the Alvis Retail Park in Coventry who provided the eggs at a very special discounted rate and who are therefore helping to make a huge difference to these children.”

Further information about Molly Olly’s Wishes or how to donate can be found at: www.mollyolly.co.uk

Rotary-led creative campaign promotes peace and mental wellbeing in schools

Rotary-led creative campaign promotes peace and mental wellbeing in schools

SCHOOL pupils across Rugby are being invited to get creative as part of a Rotary Club campaign to promote peace and mental wellbeing among young people.

The Peace Pole competition forms part of a drive by Heart of England Rotary Clubs, to tackle the underlying causes of conflict, including poverty, discrimination, lack of access to education, and unequal distribution of resources.

It is being widened out following the success of a recent project at Westgate Primary School in Warwick before Christmas.

Rotary Clubs, Peace Poles, Margaret Morley
The Peace Pole planting at Westgate Primary School in Warwick in December.

The Club is also working with Newburgh and Aylesford Primary Schools as well as Warwick Town Council which plans to introduce a Wooden Peace Pole into the town’s Pageant Gardens, incorporating languages from its twin towns in France, Germany and Italy.

Schools are being invited to submit their design for a Peace Garden and the winning entry will be presented with their own bespoke Peace Pole, donated by the Heart of England Rotary Clubs.

With an estimated 250,000 across the globe, Peace Poles are internationally-recognised as the most prominent symbol, monument and silent visual for peace as well as representing a celebration of Peace and Collaboration between different countries too.

Warwick Rotarian and Peace Project Co-ordinator, Margaret Morley, said: “As an organisation Rotary is totally committed to working with schools in any way they feel necessary to support their Peace Education Curriculum and encourage a culture of peace, which is so important in today’s society.

“Promoting peace is a Rotary area of focus as well as part of the school curriculum. It’s not just about planting a peace pole it’s about working with schools to encourage young people to think about what peace means.”

Rotary Clubs, Peace Poles, Margaret Morley
Peace Poles Project Coordinator Margaret Morley.

Margaret added: “Peace Poles are so important as they take children out of the classroom, they provide areas of tranquillity and reflection, so important with mental health issues. They also encourage an interest in the environment planting/growing.

“The Peace Pole is a constant reminder that we are working together to create a caring and compassionate society.

“Children love them, ceremonies can be planned around them to encourage a culture of peace within the school.”

Headteacher at Westgate Primary School, Matthew Watson, said: “This project goes to illustrate how well different community groups in Warwick support us and provide opportunities for the children which may not otherwise be available to them.

“The raised bed that now houses the Peace Pole was unearthed and now provides a slightly separated area for contemplation. This will eventually have peaceful planting (lavenders etc) around it and will hopefully provide a focus for Remembrance Day and other fixed points in the year when the curriculum provides links to peace.

“The focus on mental wellbeing and finding solutions where they could be alone and peaceful has been reassuring in these difficult times.”

Each year the Rotary also awards more than 100 fully funded Peace Fellowships training for dedicated leaders around the world. Since the program began in 2002, the Rotary Peace Centres have trained more than 1,400 fellows across 115 countries, many of which now serve as leaders in governments, the military, education, law enforcement and international organisations like the United Nations.

Margaret added: “As a humanitarian organisation, peace is a cornerstone of our mission. We believe when people work to create peace in their communities, that change can have a global effect.

Schools interested in finding out more about the competition or the Peace Project are invited to contact Margaret Morley at: morleyam@aol.com.

Debut novel takes readers to Rugby the day after Coventry Blitz

Debut novel takes readers to Rugby the day after Coventry Blitz

Rugby author Steve Gay is celebrating the timely launch of his evocative debut novel in the month of the 80th anniversary of the Coventry Blitz.

Inspired by long-told tales from his own family history, The Birds That Do Not Sing is set on the day after the World War II city bombings campaign, through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy from a pacifist family in neighbouring Rugby.

Steve Gay, The Birds That Do Not Sing, historical fiction, Coventry Blitz, Rugby

And the new historical fiction has already attracted positive reviews following its release last week.

Steve said: “I wanted to give readers a vivid and authentic sense of time and place, from my father’s memory of watching the German bombers overhead, Coventry burning on the horizon, and all the everyday details that framed a wartime childhood.”

He added: “There is still a rich oral history living around us, but the generation with first-hand memories of the war is slipping away from us. I hope this story will cause readers to explore their own family history, to unearth the stories and cherish them before they are gone forever.”

Steve Gay, The Birds That Do Not Sing, historical fiction, Coventry Blitz, Rugby

The launch, timed around the anniversary of the bombings on Saturday, marks a proud moment for the recently retired financial services director who reconnected with his love of writing whilst on his daily commute to London.

But it was while graduating from Warwick University’s highly regarded Warwick Writer’s Programme two years ago that his current novel began to take shape.

Moved by his father’s accounts from one of the darkest times in history, the book has been hailed as a brilliant and emotive literary arrival for the former Dunsmore Boys School student who is one of four generations of a Rugby family that stretches back to before the first world war.

Steve, 59, explained: “The central character, Jimmy, is trying to make sense of an adults’ war. He’s struggling to comprehend the mixed messages, the shifting opinions, the competing loyalties, the opposing expectations, trying to work out what it all means, particularly given that he lives in a controversial family of militant socialists, pacifists, atheists and conscientious objectors.

“It’s a book about the traumas we all suffer. It’s about the guilt that we carry, the secrets we keep, the redemption that we crave – those human adversities, qualities and frailties and how they follow us through life.”

He added: “What I described in the book are some of the real pressures my father experienced but you have to paint the truth and mould it into something more fictional as well if you’re going to create the pace that a novel requires.”

One real – and familiar – local feature of the story however, is another of Steve’s central – and personified – characters, the concrete elephant.

Built by his engineer grandfather before the start of the war, the ornamental water feature could be found for four decades on the A5, where it had been placed by the Asquith family who purchased it in 1938.

But, after many years of wondering what became of the oft-mentioned elephant, it was recently tracked down by Steve – a mere mile from his home!

He said: “In the book I have turned the elephant into a character – a confidante for the protagonist to help him try and make sense of what is happening.

“I was telling a friend about it recently who said they had spotted it in the front garden of a house just around the corner. I knocked on the door in March, much as the character does in the book, and spoke to the homeowner about it. I’m hoping when COVID is over my father will be able to go round and reacquaint himself with the elephant that he remembers as a child!“

Steve Gay, The Birds That Do Not Sing, historical fiction, Coventry Blitz, Rugby

Buoyed by the early reviews of The Birds That Don’t Sing, Steve is already looking ahead to the next chapter in his new literary career, the first in a science fiction trilogy, planned for release next summer.

For now though he is hoping that his debut novel will help set him on the path to writing success, but, most of all, that it resonates with his new army of readers.

“I never started with the ambition of publishing anything, I simply knew I wanted to write a story. But as you get into these things you start to set your sights a bit higher and become more ambitious,” he said.

“It is lovely to hear that other people are reading it and getting some enjoyment out of it already. That’s all you can ask as a writer. And if readers are talking between themselves about issues within the book that provoke discussion, then that’s important as well.

“The story isn’t really yours. Once it’s published it’s for the reader to decide what it is about and what it means to them.”

It’s a milestone too for Charles, now 90, who has given his son’s efforts the seal of approval.

Steve said: “The biggest compliment I’ve been paid – or ever will be paid – about this book, is from my father who said it’s caused him to understand his childhood in a way that he previously hadn’t.”

The Birds That Do Not Sing is available to order from book shops as well as online. It is also available as an e-book on Amazon.

For more information, visit the official website: https://rookabbeypress.com

New online marketplace connects buyers with local independent producers

New online marketplace connects buyers with local independent producers

IT just got easier to shop for food and drink from independent producers, thanks to a brand new online marketplace that launches this week.

FLOC Market allows food lovers to get their hands on everything from meat and wine to beers and cakes from independent producers, traders and specialists in their area through one central marketplace.

Inspired by the surge in interest in buying from local food and drink producers, entrepreneurs Lewis Edwards and David Clarke want to help independent businesses get online, sell direct to their customers and build an audience of loyal fans. As firm supporters of shopping locally, they hope their platform will support independents to serve the community in a new, innovative way.

FLOC creators David Clarke (L) and Lewis Edwards (R)

Their creation, FLOC Market, launches this Friday (17th April) and allows businesses to list products in a virtual store within one central marketplace, saving them the cost and extra work involved in creating their own online shop. It also makes shopping easier for customers, putting everything they need from an array of local businesses all in one place.

Lewis said: “We wanted to create an online marketplace that would encourage people to use local producers and give independent businesses the chance to easily stand out to potential customers who want to shop local and want to buy quality produce, but aren’t always sure where to look.

“The current environment is incredibly challenging for small businesses and it’s never been more important to help connect consumers to them via one, easy-to-search place. Many are offering brilliant contactless delivery or click & collect services which help people avoid supermarkets and shop safely in accordance with government guidelines. Our goal is to reduce workloads of already busy independent producers and independents away from admin-heavy duties of answering large numbers of calls, emails and messages.”

With categories including wines, beers, deli, bakery, fresh produce, meats and more, FLOC Market is a one-stop shop for discovering fantastic local food and drinks. Lewis and David are also planning on developing further tools to help people discover new brands and products, as well as helping partners streamline orders from local buyers.

While FLOC Market is expected to prove especially useful during the current lockdown restrictions, the service is here to stay and is hoped to encourage the long-term use of independent, local producers with a focus on supporting the local economy and reducing food miles.

Several businesses have already signed up to FLOC Market with many more expressing an interest, and while Lewis and David are focusing on the Midlands to start there is capacity for it to expand across the UK in the future.

Lewis added: “FLOC Market gives businesses their very own store where they can accept payments online, and help manage stock efficiently to maximise profitability. A big benefit is that it also allows businesses to manage delivery of products, both locally and nationally if they serve the whole UK, they can set radius limits and special delivery options to ensure their customers’ expectations are met.

“We appreciate that time is of the essence, so we’ve made it super easy and cost-effective for businesses to get started. There’s no cost to join or set up the shop or products and each order fee is 10% with a 2% transaction fee.

“On FLOC Market, customers will discover new products and producers by browsing the marketplace but we also give each business a unique ID link that they can share on their own social media channels and use to promote their shop.

“We’ve already got lots of local businesses interested and are looking for more. If you’re a small, local independent food and drink business, we want to help you. Get in touch at www.floc-market.co.uk