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Newsletter 10                                                                                             May 2016

Photo by Charles Adeyemi

A Cause to Celebrate

If you couldn’t make the event at our Neighbourhood Centre on Monday 18th April, you missed a great evening.  Amongst those who popped by from the locality and from St Mary Islington, there were some people who either lived or worked in Islington but who hadn’t heard of Mary’s and all the activities we offer…so thanks to everyone who tramped the streets of the parish to deliver the invitations.  We have to continue to build awareness and understanding of who we are and what we do.

This was our second event, following the launch of our new brand last year – and this time all went smoothly.  Balazs, our Chief Executive, did the welcome and presided over the delivery of the £325,000 cheque from Ian, one of our Trustees who has been deeply immersed in the development of grant applications, on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund to our Youth Club co-producers (they’re the young people who we employ on a short term basis to work with staff to develop and deliver new activities and opportunities for Youth Club members).

Rebecca, our Youth Development Manager, outlined the new employability services this funding enables us to offer – including mentoring and work experience – which will give young people in Islington a kick-start in their search for employment…so crucial in a borough where youth unemployment is almost double the average for London as a whole.  Then some Youth Club members did a presentation covering a market and competitive analysis they had been conducting, together with PESA – one of Mary’s partners in fitness activities – in order to produce a business plan to raise funds for the development of a professionally-equipped gym in the Neighbourhood Centre, for use not only by the Youth Club, but also by the community groups who use our premises and the local community.  Great practical experience for them – and a well-constructed proposition.

Helen, Chair of Mary’s Trustees, rounded off all the talking by explaining why we still needed to raise a further £100,000 over the next three years to meet the terms of the Big Lottery Fund grant.  We have more to do but at least the award will give us a bit more time to build up sustainable funding to ensure Mary’s long term future.  And then Helen handed over to four more members of the Youth Club who performed a jaw-dropping dance routine, led by Chloe Dean.

An action-packed end to celebrate an action-packed year at Mary’s Youth Club and to launch an even more action-packed 2016/7.

Just wish I could dance like that!

Jan Pester – Mary’s Trustee
Photo by Charles Adeyemi

See more!

Meet the Team:
Sharon Ellis

Sharon Ellis is the Childcare Services Manager at Mary’s and is responsible for leading the Pre-school and Play Scheme services for children from 2-12yrs old.  She’s the friendly but firm face that holds the growing childcare team together:  “I am at heart an easy-going person, but I’m known for my driving skills – off and on the road!”

For Sharon it’s important that the space at Mary’s allows safe supervision for all the children while allowing them freedom to explore and grow.  Together with a small and trusting team who communicate well, Sharon really believes in Mary’s ability to be a force for good: “The work at Mary’s touches people in ways we may never be able to fully measure.  Parents comment on how much it means to them about their children being in a safe environment so how they can work in peace.”  It’s also important to her that low fees help parents access childcare and keep their own lives in balance.  “Everyone has to be able to enjoy their children and create a future for themselves.”

Children’s work energises Sharon:  “No two days are the same. Children have a unique way of bringing out a different lease of life within you, giving you a new outlook on the values of life and family. This is not to say the work itself isn’t challenging. There are complexities in working with people, but seeing individuals and families growing in confidence moving towards a potential is rewarding in itself.  Having the varying communications with children also gives you a real perspective on what they really think about and what matters most. Boundaries are something the children hold close to in order to have the secure attachments and sense of wellbeing at Mary’s.”

But there’s more to Sharon than simply being an excellent manager and children’s worker:  “I spend a lot of time with my large family – there are 5 generations of us alive. I have a daughter and a grandson who is 2yrs old, though I agree I don’t look old enough! We all socialise a lot together, eating, partying, going out on trips and holidays when we can and most importantly spending worship time together. We have a regular Monday bible study session which gives us time to share and pray together.”

We’re sure you agree that Mary’s is very fortunate to have Sharon on board.  Now you know a little more about her, you know a little more about Mary’s.

Community Feature:
Train Aid

If you’re looking for a qualification in First Aid for adults or children, or to qualify as a teacher in your own discipline, then you need to find out more about Train Aid.  The Train Aid team have been running courses in Mary’s hireable facilities for over a year, and most months they can be found in the crypt helping people to upskill and better themselves.
Tom Casserley, the founder of Train Aid, explained that many of the group’s customers are nannies and au pairs looking for qualifications that improve their employability and help them feel comfortable in providing safe care for children.  The group aim to be competitively priced and try to make their courses as available as possible, which has included discounts and payments plans for those on Jobseeker’s allowance.  “At the end of the day,” says Tom, “we’re training people in life-saving skills, focusing on people looking to do better in life or make a new start.”  Their thriving courses are often fully-booked, which proves that Train Aid are indeed as personable and welcoming as they aim to be.  However, Tom also credits the venue with their success: “We use a lot of venues for our courses, but when people are friendly and you can build a good relationship with them you know you’ll come back.”  Together with good transport links that assist trainees reaching their course and a breakout area that allows them to mingle and meet people in other groups, Mary’s provides Train Aid with what they consider a helpful and reliable base for their London courses.

The Train Aid team.

Find out more!

Pre-school Goes Digital

How do parents at Mary’s Pre-school know what their children have been up to during the day?  They can ask their toddling darlings and get a child’s eye view or speak to the helpful staff, but very soon they will have a new way to observe what their children have done and how they are developing: Log on to Capture.
Capture is a software that allows Preschool staff to create a digital learning journal: a regularly updated online record of videos, photographs, notes and recordings that tell the story of a particular child’s development.  Currently in a trial stage but to be fully operational by September, this new tool has already proven popular with the staff who find they have more freedom to make observations, can do them more quickly and efficiently and can make clear links between photographs and written notes.  All of these are securely stored by Capture and will be available to the parents of each child.

Not only will record-keeping become simpler, but the tool promises to ease communication with parents, who will also be able to upload videos, photographs or notes from home to add to the holistic picture of a child’s learning.  In fact it will even help with home visits before a child begins Pre-school, as photos and evidence can be used as a baseline.  Imagine being able to log on and see a video of your own child at the very beginning of Pre-school and then another showing exactly what they achieved today!  Mary’s has an opportunity to show the way in relationships with parents as well as using technology to ‘capture’ what might get missed otherwise.

Apply for a Pre-School Place

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