Saturday Interview: Creating Sunshine In Young Lives - Charlotte Farrington
Anyone who has not met Charlotte Farrington will be taken aback by her boundless energy and enthusiasm.
I’m sure she would not mind me describing her as Tigger-like, that wonderful AA Milne character, and friend of Winnie-the-Pooh, who is always filled with great energy and optimism.
In fact, I would say it is quite apt as Charlotte is the CEO behind a brand-new organisation set up this month – Yorkshire Children’s Charity.
Our paths crossed many times when I was CBI’s director for Yorkshire & the Humber; Charlotte is exceptionally well-known in the Yorkshire corporate world and wields quite a lot of influence.
We are catching up after the announcement of her new position and I am firmly keeping my arms where I can see them, such is her reputation for arm twisting to raise thousands of pounds for charity.
My note taking will have to be quick too, as due to her enthusiasm, she likes to get her message out often not giving the poor interviewer time to pick up on her words.
That is meant as a term of endearment not a criticism. If it was anything else the corporate world would probably lynch me!
Ian Short, Managing Director at Morley Glass and Glazing - financial backers of the new charity, said: “At Morley Glass we passionately believe in helping vulnerable children, giving back is really important to us – in fact, it’s the very essence of our business. We are delighted to be a part of this exciting new venture, which without doubt, will help improve the lives of thousands of children across Yorkshire.”
So, I ask the former Yorkshire Regional Development Director for the charity Variety, what’s it feel like to be creating a new organisation and therefore a legacy to be proud of, from scratch?
“Andrew, how many people are given the opportunity to do this? As you know I am a working mum of two healthy able-bodied children and I struggle to keep on top of the admin, endless amounts of washing, sorting childcare when they’re poorly and the never-ending list of other mum related duties. I honestly don’t know how parents of children with disabilities manage. I’m sure many would say it feels like a full time job navigating their way through endless forms for funding and hospital appointments. Then”
There is an emphasis on ‘then’ to warn me what’s coming next.
I love my work, it’s my vocation and I’m 100% committed, even more so now I have the opportunity to really shape how we help children and young people.
"Once they’ve navigated their way through the complex process of establishing their child’s needs, the cost of equipment is so expensive (beyond the financial reach of most families) they then spend hours applying to countless charities before someone finally helps them."
It’s Charlotte’s passion coming through; she has had years of getting to understand what it means to parents to have an understanding person ready to listen and empathise, and most importantly ready to help.
“It’s brilliant,” she continues, “I have been able to create everything from scratch, because I know how difficult bureaucracy and forms can be to fill in and how some parents find it difficult to constantly articulate what they need. I was able with the support of a great team at DS Emotion, to design an online application system that takes away the need for printing and posting forms and allows busy parents to save applications and complete as and when they have the time. Simple yes and no answers is what we ask for because that’s what our parents need and want.
“To be able to remove obstacles for our beneficiaries and their families and work on a blank canvass has been wonderful. Everyone I approached said ‘of course Charlotte’. The Yorkshire corporate world, I think you would agree, is just brill.
“The children and young people we support are faced with the most incredible challenges and adversity and the strength, courage and determination of these children are what drives my passion. Every child should be given the opportunity to reach their own unique potential and access the world around them."
I can see the passion building up. Charlotte tells me that working in a role where she gets to make a real difference to the lives of Yorkshire's most vulnerable and disenfranchised children is a privilege, and one she will never take for granted.
She doesn’t even have to say that because for me, like anyone that knows Charlotte, recognise that it is etched through Charlotte like a stick of rock.
“I hope you can see Andrew that Yorkshire Children's Charity will shape and change the lives of those who need help the most– as a team we’re dedicated to identifying the needs of families, schools and local communities in the region and responsively supporting them in practical ways.”
Of course I can, and, as it happens, a lot of others can too, the new charity is backed by some of Yorkshire’s leading business leaders.
My next question gets me a piercing stare and a forthright answer. After all these years and her immense
experience, does she not become immune to it.
“NO! The moment you don’t get upset by a child’s story and can no longer put yourself in the shoes of their parents, it’s time to move on. I love my work, it’s my vocation and I’m 100% committed, even more so now I have the opportunity to really shape how we help children and young people.”
I knew it was a question I shouldn’t have asked!
Now though, it’s all go for Charlotte, who is being helped by a team with extensive experience in both the sector and the region, committed to supporting families in need and working alongside Annabel Robinson, known and respected for delivering some of the regions most prolific fundraising events.
There’s a lot to do in a year. So, if we were to meet on New Year’s Day in 2022, what would she have hoped to have achieved.
“Good question but I know what we can achieve.
I want to appoint a dynamic board of trustees who have the skills to help me on this journey. I would be the first to put my hand up and say: ‘can you advise me on this or that?’ Or give me a steer on the operational side of the charity.
Darren Stubbs, Founder and CEO Stonebridge Homes and Chair of Trustees for Yorkshire Children's Charity said: “YCC will be an incredible force for good. It's everything a charity should be – modern, accessible, passionate, dynamic, transparent, and honest. Care will form the very foundations and we are committed to putting our beneficiaries and their families first. Charlotte brings a wealth of experience to the role and is known and respected by many in the region for her passion, enthusiasm, and dedication to improving the lives of children who are at a disadvantage. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have played a part in helping us get the charity off the ground. The kindness and generosity of individuals and companies such as Addleshaw Goddard, DS Emotion, Clarion, Prohibition PR, Ideas that Work, SLBPR and Morley Glass has been humbling.”
“I want us to be a recognised name in households throughout the region and I want to exceed our schools, families and supporters expectations, that so rarely happens these days! I would really like to have enlisted the help of a couple of ambassadors too, people who our children, young people and parents will relate to and who are vibrant and passionate about the cause.”
Anyone in particular?
“Of course Andrew. Anyone who can help me progress the cause. Individuals like The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owens or Dr Amir Khan would be a fantastic start. Both those would be able to relate to our cause and would be a positive force.”
Having interviewed Amanda, I can only agree. I am also interested to find out what exactly the ‘School Network’ will do.
“I’ve been thinking about this initiative for some time. The School Network is where volunteers will work with schools to provide responsive support such as establishing the number of children going without a pair of winter shoes or winter coat and addressing those needs to improve lives. Children not having suitable winter footwear often directly impacts a pupils attendance. Grants for wheelchairs, specialist equipment and to support families in financial crisis will also be available."
Another initiative I learn about is one working alongside local building contractors and suppliers, YCC will launch the Yorkshire Big Build - delivering state-of-the-art school facilities to SILC and SEND schools, creating environments where staff feel re-energised to teach and children are excited to learn.
I am ready to draw our discussion to a close when Charlotte characteristically says, she understands my earlier question asking her about how she doesn’t get immune to the numerous cases.
“It would be easy to become complacent. I want Yorkshire Children’s Charity to be active and responsive to the ‘need’ and that means being adaptable. I don’t want the way we support children and young people to be dictated by lists of equipment that we do or don’t fund. We will be outcome focused, and if it matters to our beneficiaries then it matters to us”.
There is no waning to her enthusiasm, and she is keen to ensure I acknowledge the good will of Yorkshire folk. “It’s so amazing there is such a vast amount of good measure here in the region, and I never stop being surprised by Yorkshire generosity,”
“I know we will be successful because of the wonderful people around us.”
In the first of an exciting calendar of fundraising events planned for 2022, Yorkshire Children’s Charity is hosting the ‘The Yorkshires’ – Commercial Real Estate Awards on Thursday 5th May 2022 at Rudding Park Hotel, Harrogate
. The event will celebrate the best in commercial property across Yorkshire and will be an excellent opportunity to network with 1,000 professionals operating within the sector.
As a new venture, Yorkshire Children’s Charity is completely reliant on the good will of the people of Yorkshire and the amazing business and organisations that are willing to get behind them and raise funds to make a difference. The charity is dedicated to ensuring money is going where it’s really needed - to get involved, donate, or find out more about fundraising visit www.yorkshirechildrenscharity.org