The Hon. Mrs Rupert Soames DL was sworn in as High Sheriff of Buckinghamshire in April 2016. Milly has strong links to Buckinghamshire and has lived in the area for over 25 years. She and her husband Rupert moved to the Waddesdon Estate from Paris in 1991 and later settled on a small farm in Cuddington.
Milly, as one of our Vice presidents, understands that one of the key features of Community Foundations is our ability to support a huge range of organisations, which may not fall into a specific group or demographic. This unique aspect permits us to extend funding across the whole community and not just certain sectors and enables us to act as a pivot for change throughout Milton Keynes when the need arises. In February, we took a group of our donors out on a Seeing is Believing Project Visit, accompanied by Milly Soames DL, so they could experience some of the amazing local projects we have supported.
Urb Farm, is the home of growing people, part of MK Christian Foundation which works with disadvantaged young people of many different backgrounds, who are excluded from or who are otherwise seeking education from outside mainstream schools. Their training provides learning opportunities within social enterprises for young people “turned off” by or excluded from the traditional classroom setting. The Urb Farm is used as a ‘classroom’ and helps young people, through the means of horticulture and small animal care, to gain a range of skills and experiences as well as build their confidence and self-esteem.
Florie and her ‘trainees’ welcomed us to their project in Wolverton and were keen to give us a tour of the site. The donors braved the cold, rainy weather and marvelled at the resilience of the young people to work outside during the harsher winter months. One donor asked if the produce is sold commercially. and Florie, the manager at the farm, explained that vegetables and eggs were sold to local people and businesses. The trainees explained their roles at the farm and delighted in showing us the chicken and ducks that they lovingly care for. Milly who was brought up as a Farmer’s daughter in Herefordshire, discussed her experiences with her own livestock and shared husbandry tips!
It was great for our guests to hear that the farm has an impact on even younger children as we learned that Forest School sessions take place at the farm for local schools and nurseries.
Next, we visited Cycle Saviours at Stacey Bushes, to see first-hand how another Social Enterprise under the Christian Foundation umbrella helps young people to access and develop employability, social and life skills as well as achieving qualifications in a vocational area. Cycle Saviours’ mission is to save unwanted bikes, save the environment and help get people on their bikes. In addition to their work recycling, repairing and servicing bikes they have recently been awarded a large contract to maintain bikes for the Santander public bike rental scheme in Milton Keynes and are expanding their community engagement services to encourage more people to get on their bikes.
Adrian and Jake welcomed us to their premises at a very busy time – they even had two mechanics over from Germany (who work for the bike’s manufacturers) to help with the volume of work that the bike rental scheme generates. The donors were keen to find out how the trainees were supported, in terms of learning new skills and communicating with customers. We were all impressed with the articulation skills shown by the workforce. Our visitors were particularly intrigued by the ElliptiGO bikes, Cycle Saviours recently won the service contract for these, and were keen to give one a test run!
Middle Eastern Cultural Group
After that, we were very lucky to visit Norfolk House for lunch where we were welcomed by Works For Us and The Middle Eastern Cultural Group who provided some delicious sweet treats for our donors to enjoy! Whilst we ate our lunch, Ayser the project lead, presented their hard work and showcased some of the resources that they have produced for children and educational providers.
The generous donations we receive allowed us to fund the production costs for the implementation of the Sensory Book Project, which is a creative educational tool that will be used in schools for children with different special needs. The Middle Eastern Cultural Group, works in partnership with Works For Us, to facilitate this project - both groups aim to provide social and recreational activities for women, who might otherwise feel isolated helping them develop the skills to enable them to return to the workplace. During her year as High Sheriff, Milly wishes to highlight the plight of loneliness and to promote ideas and organisations working to alleviate it.
“Loneliness affects people from all backgrounds, circumstances, and ages; it has been described as a ‘silent epidemic’ and can be the scourge of people’s lives. It is something we can all help to banish.” Milly Soames DL
Finally, we visited Worktree to take part in one of their Career WorkOut sessions at Oakgrove School. Worktree is an employability education charity based in Milton Keynes, with a mission to prepare young people for the world of work by engaging employers in their education. The organisation links businesses and schools in a range of activities to develop young people’s career awareness and employability skills, including quality experiences of work. Worktree is funded through payments from schools, employer sponsorship, contracts with training organisations and grants from charities such as Milton Keynes Community Foundation. It does not receive direct government funding.
Our guests got to experience first-hand the crucial service that Worktree provide to young people in today’s ever-changing world. We found out how important it is for young people to have interactions with adults who aren’t part of the school population or within their own sphere of influence. The feedback from the session shows the importance of the Worktree project: