Posted: 15 January 2015

In the zone

Thanks to your support, our Children and Family Zone is tackling poverty in Solihull

We use your donations to help disadvantaged young people. One area we’re focusing on is the West Midlands, where almost 175,000 children live in poverty – making it one of the most deprived regions in the UK. 

Last April we introduced a new Children and Family Zone (CFZ) in north Solihull to offer families continuous support for their children from birth until they start work or begin higher education at the age of 18. We work with local authorities, health groups, schools, community, faith and voluntary bodies to ensure children and their families get the help and support they need. It’s the first initiative  of its kind in the UK and is based on a successful model that was set up in Harlem, New York.

Calling for change

The core of the CFZ is in Solihull’s three children’s centres: Kingshurst, Yorkswood and Castle Bromwich. Among the family services already on offer are Stay and Play sessions, parenting programmes, child development checks, family learning and advice on healthy eating.

‘We provide a range of services for children in the West Midlands, but the idea behind CFZ is to get families living in areas of high deprivation to think of things they can do for themselves, then initiate those changes,’ says Bali Hothi, the CFZ Lead and Programme Manager for Solihull.

Parents identified there was a real issue for families who had children of various ages going to different activity clubs in the holidays. This was not only time-consuming, but also costly.

‘They really wanted something for the whole family,’ says Shaki McFarland, Volunteer Co-ordinator and CFZ Project Worker at Kingshurst and Yorkswood. 

‘So they came up with a Family Fun Day in the summer and organised activities and prizes. With the money raised they held a Halloween event, and now we have more people who want to volunteer. We wouldn’t have achieved that level of engagement without the parents,’ smiles Shaki. ‘It’s that belief of: “I can do it, so you can do it too.”’

Listen to Shaki talk about the community's role in our Children and Family Zone
(or listen to the recording on the Soundcloud website)

Everyone benefits

And thanks to our team of dedicated professionals  and volunteers, these children’s centres are also a place for parents and their children to relax and enjoy themselves together.

‘Many families around here live in tower blocks with no access to gardens, so we provide that space away from whatever else is going on in their lives,’ says Shaki. ‘It can affect a child’s development if they can’t run around so our Messy Play sessions are about letting the kids explore.’

Lisa Cross has been using the centres since her boys Conway, 10, Callum, 8, and 17-month-old Blake were tiny. ‘I’ve made loads of friends and the staff are friendly. Blake has learnt to share, his speech has improved and he has so much fun,’ she says. ‘Everyone benefits.’

Shaki believes the centres play a vital role in the community. ‘People know we’re here to support them when they need it,’ she says. ‘We offer families little bits of brightness, and they trust us.’

By Matt Summers-Sparks - Digital team

Read more

Welcome to the Spring 2015 issue of Voice magazine

Posted: 15 January 2015