Members Update June 2021

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Members Update, June 2021


It has been lovely to welcome groups back to our centres after 15 months of restrictions and to see the ongoing creativity of our members as volunteers continue to adapt to COVID regulations.


There seems to be so much going on I found it really difficult to keep this update short, so apologies in advance.


In this latest members update you will find:


  1. Information about our groups

  2. Celebration of our centres

  3. Funding update

  4. New projects information

  5. Staffing news

  6. Future dates


  1. Information about our groups


I’m pleased to report that most restrictions have now been lifted and the majority of our groups have resumed face to face meetings - many have opted to meet outdoors to reduce the need for face coverings and additional cleaning.


You will recall that I previously reported a 22% reduction in volunteer numbers over the period January 2020-January 2021. In response we launched a social media campaign with 360 Resourcing in March 2021. The volunteer recruitment campaign is going well, reaching over 69,000 people and attracting over 130 applications to date. Our volunteer numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels but are slowly increasing as group activities resume. Please share the potential volunteer sign up page with friends and family or invite them along to one of the volunteer induction events - the next is scheduled for July 6th at 6:30pm.


We have also been busy welcoming new groups and potential new groups as we see an increase in the number of families looking to enrol their children into Woodcraft Folk activities. New groups have been opened in Whitstable, Watford, Waltham Abbey, Falkirk and Brighton & Hove. Leanne and the Membership team are also busy supporting the development of potential new groups in Southport, Conwy, Grantham, Liverpool, Plymouth, Cheddar, Hereford, Burnley, Kidderminster, Thetford, Preston & Dumfries.


  1. Celebration of our centres


Our network of centres have shown great resilience over the last 15 months and it has been a delight to see Woodcraft Folk and school groups return. I’m so pleased that our centre staff are no longer on furlough as they are once again needed on site to support guests and groups to enjoy our wonderful facilities.


Our centre volunteers have been truly amazing, coming together for working weekends, undertaking maintenance and improvement plans on site - our centres have never looked so good. Volunteers have also been fundraising:


  • The Biblins Bimble raised nearly £1,000 with members across the UK undertaking the virtual walk in the first half of the summer term

  • Those volunteers who completed the Lockerbrook Long Hike at the weekend also deserve a mention - well done 40 miles in 24hrs!


This August our centres are gearing up to host a Pioneer camp and socially distanced residentials for Venturers. This year’s Venturer Camp is not going to be thwarted by COVID restrictions, instead we are hosting the event in bubbles across multiple locations - together but apart with bubbles camping at Biblins, Park Farm and staying at Cudham, Darsham & Lockerbrook.


Our centres are also benefiting from the support of European Solidarity Corps volunteers. Ivan & Federica are currently supporting activity at Biblins and in September Cudham and Lockerbrook will begin to host additional volunteers. We remain incredibly grateful to all those members who are involved in recruiting, mentoring and housing our team of ESC volunteers.


Family and household stays are still being welcomed at Heightgate, Biblins, the Lockerbrook cottage and Cudham bungalow. Do take a look and book your stay. Or if you feel able, please make a donation to our #OutdoorAdventures campaign. Sadly our centres are still predicted to make a financial loss in 2021 as they are all operating under ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and only able to welcome reduced numbers.


  1. Funding update


Things do seem to be generally picking up as we seek to rebuild after COVID. In 2020 we saw a reduction in Woodcraft Folk income of roughly 51% due to group and centre closures and limited camps and activities. We are still operating at reduced levels in 2021 but things are beginning to move closer to normal, especially now that camps and residentials can resume.


We have also been fortunate to attract various bits of funding, for example:


  • A COVID recovery grant from the Julia Hans Rausing Foundation to support the reopening of our centres

  • £5,000 from the Canoe Foundation to support improvements to the canoe launch at Biblins

  • Foundation Derbyshire to install a volunteers kitchen and rest area at Lockerbrook

  • £20,000 to support volunteers and new groups from the Bens Educational Trust

  • National Voluntary Youth Organisations of Scotland funding to support skill sharing and the development of a political education toolkit

  • A small unrestricted donation from the Guardian’s Christmas appeal


Woodcraft Folk have also initiated a new partnership with Co-operative Legal Services offering discounted will writing services to our members and supporters. The legacies we received as an organisation enable us to invest and overcome challenging years. We will be launching the scheme in September, so do look out for opportunities to get involved.


  1. New projects information


The Membership & Programmes team have also been successful at attracting some additional funding to launch targeted work with the aim of increasing and widening participation in Woodcraft Folk activities.


We have successfully received 3 year funding from BBC Children in Need to continue our development activities in Falkirk. The funding will enable us to retain Clare Ritchie as the local Development Officer, but also support the development of Pioneer activity in the area.


We also have funding to deliver activities as part of the Government’s Holiday Activities & Food programme. We will be providing daily activities and food to 50 young people throughout the summer holidays in the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. The 10-14 year olds will engage in a wide range of programme activities including bushcraft, social action and co-operative team challenges. As part of the programme we will be working with local Food Banks and Children's Centres.


  1. Staffing news


Another obvious sign of looking forward is recruiting staff and investing in new projects. Since my last update I am delighted to welcome:


  • Andy Taylor as the new Head of Centres (starts 12th July)

  • Tracy Cleveland as Cudham Centre Co-ordinator (starts 26th July)

  • Millie Burgh as the new Common Ground Camp Assistant (starts September)


We are also in the process of recruiting a small staff team to deliver the holiday activities and food programme to young people in Shepherds Bush & Fulham.


At the end of the summer we will be wishing Chris Sturgeon a happy retirement after 4 seasons at Biblins Youth Campsite during which time he has turned his hand to many things - the new online booking system, flood clean up, creating Camp Koodoo and making Biblins a welcoming place for Woodies of all ages. We will all miss Chris, but we are fairly certain that he will still join us around the campfire to share tall tales!

 

  1. Future dates


And finally just a few dates for your diary:



  • 23rd August is the deadline for amendments, emergency motions & nominations. The preliminary agenda has already been sent to District and Group Contacts. General Council is keen to welcome nominations from women and those with experience in fundraising and communications.



Thanks for persevering to the end - there is just so much I wanted to share and celebrate. And just a final thanks to you all - Woodcraft Folk is a movement and only together can we give children and young people positive experiences and share our aims and principles with new generations. 


Together we will build back stronger. 


Thank you for all that you do.


In friendship,


Debs McCahon

Chief Executive Officer