The 12 joys of Christmas
How do you round up a year like 2023?
At Two Ridings we are acutely aware of the impact of the cost of living crisis on local people and communities, and the long-term effects the pandemic has had on people’s wellbeing and mental health. Every day we get applications for funding to alleviate some of the suffering; to put on a social activity for those who are lonely, to provide hot meals and a warm space for people to go to, or indeed to keep a charity going.
We also talk directly to community leaders and their team members regularly. Hearing about the issues they are facing, listening and adapting how we do things to make their lives easier. We know that 2023 has been very tough.
But to get in the festive spirit, we have to tell you we also hear the most magical stories from the groups we support. We hear how people who are at rock bottom start to flourish again thanks to kind words, supportive spaces and fresh perspectives. We hear of young people gaining confidence and self esteem through having their voice heard. We hear of older people enjoying themselves and making new friends for the first time in years.
So we wanted to share with you twelve examples of the feedback we get – let’s call them the 12 joys of Christmas – snippets of the benefits our funding has on people across the region, from inner city Hull to a rural village in the Dales.
1. Brushing up for the kids
Teeth Team in Hull have distributed 11,000 sets of toothbrushes and paste to children in the city from a small grants fund.
2. Helping a young girl through her grief
Sunflowers in York told us of an eight-year-old Ukrainian girl who lost her Dad to the Russian invasion and was struggling not least because she was unable to say ‘Goodbye’ to her Dad. Funding has enabled her to start seeing a psychologist and although it will be a long process, her favourite thing is ‘seeing the nice lady who she creates nice things with’.
3. When support leads to supporting others
York Menfulness have had funding for equipment to produce their Menfulness podcast, hoping to connect with a wider audience to support men’s mental health challenges. One of their listeners talked about the difference the podcast had made to him.
“I first started listening to the Menfulness podcast when I was in a bad place. After listening to a couple of episodes, I found hearing people’s stories incredibly cathartic. In particular, hearing men share their darkest moments and vulnerability gave me confidence that Menfulness was somewhere I could go for help, I didn’t feel alone anymore.
“I plucked up the courage to attend my first Menfulness event, a significant step for me because of my social anxiety and found it friendly and welcoming.
“I kept listening to the podcast, gaining strength and insight from each episode, eventually sharing my own personal story as a guest. I hope telling it would help someone.
“I realised I wanted to do more to help, and became a Menfulness volunteer. Using my knowledge of horticulture and the natural world, I helped set up the Menfulness Allotment project in July 2023.”
4. Becoming self sustainable
Shores in Holderness used their cost of living funding to support local people and cover their bills. That enabled them to concentrate their own fundraising efforts on solar panels and energy efficiency measures so they can become self sustainable in the future.
5. Clothing for everyone
A young person in Selby got top grades but couldn’t go on a reward trip to Alton Towers because he only had his uniform to wear. He was able to get some casual clothes from The Clothing Bank in Selby, and ran down the street shouting ‘Alton Towers here I come!’.
6. Food going further for a family
In Hull, Humber All Nations Alliance provide food to local families, but also cooking sessions with budgeting advice as part of it. One person benefitting from the service said:
“Me and my family want to thank you very much for the support you gave us during these difficult times. We are very grateful. We did not know we could do a lot by having little adjustments in our shopping and cooking habit. We are now able to get a lot out of what we spend. Your food donations and cooking sessions were magnificent.”
7. Access for all at community choir
Harrogate Emerging Voices community choir gives people the chance to socialise and enjoy singing together. One of their members cites the choir as the highlight of their week. Relying on a power assisted wheelchair to get around, one week the member had no carer to help them out of their flat, so they asked a neighbour to help because they were so determined to get to choir rehearsal.
8. Growing food for a foodbank
Grow Wild used their funding to employ an assistant grower, growing vegetables and planting trees alongside the people with dementia and learning difficulties they support. As well as growing food for themselves, they were able to provide York Food bank with kilos of veg too.
9. A different way to employment
City of Hull Sports and Community Group has been using funding to help young people get into employment. One of the first young people to take part in the scheme has lived on the Orchard Park Estate all his life. He said:
“I’ve enjoyed coming to City of Hull to take part in the employment programme. I’ve faced some challenges in getting a job, some I’ll admit have been my own fault, but I’ve just been looking for that chance to bounce back now I have a family of my own. I came once a week and Bob has been good in helping me to develop job skills and search for a new role. I think it’s been different to the courses job centre try to put you on and I’ve liked the fact we mix working in the classroom with getting in the gym. It helps me to de-stress and my mental outlook has improved.”
10. Keeping people connected
Dales and Bowland bus company used funding to run their Wensleydale Flyer bus service on Sundays and Bank Holidays offering public transport to locals and tourists a like in a remote area of North Yorkshire. One of their regular users finds the service a lifeline.
“I use this service every Sunday and Bank Holiday. As someone with a disability it is invaluable to me. It gives me the freedom I wouldn’t otherwise have.”
11. Hot meals for everyone
During a three month period the Moorlands Community Charity in Goole provided an additional 1740 hot meals thanks to their Cost of Living grant and increased their foodbank activity by 42%. They told us they couldn’t have done it without support from Two Ridings.
12. Giving time to help others
The Rainbow Centre in Scarborough have used their cost of living funding towards food, a cookery course, their warm space and the staff to run the course. They have seen that having access to food has a direct correlation to improved physical and mental health. The cooking course has given the people attending new skills to cook nutritious meals for their own families and the confidence to pass their knowledge on.
One of the young Mums supported said:”Early in 2023, I found that after Christmas and the crazy hike in fuel bills, the month was lasting longer than my money! I work part time as a nurse, and have 2 young children at home. The time had come to put my pride aside and ask for some help
“Citizens Advice suggested that I go to the Rainbow Centre.
“After being given a couple of bags of groceries, I figured while I didn’t have any surplus cash, I did have some time to spare, so volunteered my services to the centre one day a week while the kids were at school.
“I’ve been helping in the cafe kitchen for a few months, helped with food donations and even took part in the Dragon Boat racing for the centre. I’ve met lots of super people.
“I’m grateful to the Rainbow Centre for helping me out of a fix, and giving me the opportunity to give something back.”
As ever, we are in awe of the brilliant work community organisations do all over the region. We are privileged to be able to fund them.
Also a huge thank you to every person and organisation who funded Two Ridings over the last year. Your generosity makes these impactful stories happen, enriching people’s lives.
If you would like to be part of that impact in the future, don’t hesitate to donate to the Cost of Living Crisis Fund.