Speaking at the official launch event at Durham Town Hall on Friday, the charity’s CEO Michelle Cooper MBE made the announcement that a total of £360,000 had already been given, including £250,000 from philanthropists Jonathan and Jane Ruffer, £40,000 from the Ferguson Family Fund, £25,000 from telecommunications firm Arqiva, £20,000 from the Banks Group Family Fund, £1,000 from Peppercorn Tax, and £173 from 14-year-old Ryan Collier from Tow Law, who ran a kilometre for every £10 donation received as part of his Duke of Edinburgh Award.
More than 100 supporters attended the event, which featured an original poem by Bishop Auckland’s Alison Curry, a video showing the work of one of the many causes supported by the appeal, Little Chefs Big Chefs CIC, and a powerful photographic exhibition by County Durham-based photographer and film-maker Carl Joyce, which depicted a typical busy day at work for six charity leaders from across the area, and some of the vital elements of support they offer.
Five of the individuals pictured – Steve Vasey of counselling and housing provider Cornerstone, Yeama Susan Mansaray from Stockton’s Purple Rose, which supports refugees and asylum seekers, Gemma O’Brien from Sacriston Youth and Community Project, Darren McMahon MBE from PACT House in Stanley, and Juliet Sanders of Feeding Familes – also took part in a panel discussion chaired by Chris McDonald of the Materials Processing Institute, who champions the social role of business and is also Chair of the Board at Redhills – Durham Miners Hall.
Need has doubled
During the discussion it was revealed that Feeding Families has seen the demand for its services double over the past year while the cost of some basic items used to make up food boxes has gone up by 150 per cent.
Speaking of the support from Poverty Hurts, Juliet said: “Without these funds we simply couldn’t operate. Donations have gone through the floor and every £1 makes a huge difference. Behind every box there’s a real person and real families.”
Similarly, Darren told the story of one of his organisation’s volunteers who had to make a stark choice between buying groceries and paying for a prescription for antibiotics recently, resulting in them coughing for weeks.
He said: “These are the families that are falling through the cracks. The scale of the challenge can be quite daunting. People can be reluctant to get involved because they feel they can’t make a difference, but every little bit helps.”
Steve added: “There’s a whole raft of people who are invisible because they find it difficult to come forward. The foundation connects with organisations that help meet the needs of those people. They understand what’s needed on the front line, but they can only do it with support and money talks.”
High Sheriff of Durham
A big supporter of the Poverty Hurts Appeal is High Sheriff of Durham, Shona Harper-Wilkes, who was also in attendance at the launch, and feels the inclusion of the photographs on the day was particularly effective. She said: “The exhibition is stunning and I think very moving.
“It is a great idea to have a pictoral representation of the issues, and the way in which the appeal has been embraced by the community is incredible. People really want to help.”
Mayor of Darlington Anne-Marie Curry agreed, saying she was keen to learn more about the Poverty Hurts Appeal and the support it offers charities in her area. She said: “The exhibition is a great thing for highlighting the profiles of these great causes.”
The artist behind the images, Carl Joyce added: “I was blown away by the work of these six individuals and their teams. That has been the most rewarding aspect of the project and I’m really pleased my work can be used to help highlight that and make a difference.”
During her speech, Michelle explained: “I truly wish I had time to thank every single person that has given. But please know you are all deeply appreciated and that regardless of what you can give, be it £10 or £10,000, it all changes lives.
“Of course, this is only the starting point and with need increasing on a daily basis and issues worsening with each passing week, we cannot stop there.”
The £1m raised through Poverty Hurts will fund vital lifelines for almost 32,000 local children and young people being hurt by poverty in all its forms, and every £1 will be matched with a further 50p from the foundation.
It is hoped the target will be reached by March next year, when all the proceeds from the final ever performance by musical theatre group Collabro, taking place at Durham Cathedral, will be used to support the fund.