Story Book Dads

An aim of The Brothers Trust is to help charities who might struggle to attract publicity and the income that comes with this.

This might be due to their size and/or that their cause is not so fashionable.

Which is why we are delighted to be able to support a charity called Storybook Dads – which we did with an initial grant of £10,000.00

If I can briefly explain why we made this grant…

Put in its simplest terms, Storybook Dads allows prisoners to read bedtime stories to their children – via recorded CD’s.

Prison is not an institution many of us are familiar with. Prison is something that happens to other families and to other people but this does not mean that we should ignore the plight of prisoners and their families. 

The charity is underpinned by the importance of family and how vital it is to keep an attachment with the dad (or the mum) while they are incarcerated. 

The recordings of a parent reading to their child can be a lifeline and a vital link between the prisoner and their family. 

Statistics show that prisoners who keep in contact with their families are 6 times less likely to re-offend.

From the prisoners perspective, there is so much to gain. A set of new skills in recording and editing. A sense of achievement and the boost to their self-esteem, knowing that they have made their child happy and proud in their absence.  

And for the child…

Everyone knows that reading stories to a child is the best building bloc and start in life. Something I took for granted as a child and did naturally for our boys. 

Imagine the hurt a child feels at having a parent taken away and the adverse impact this can have on the child’s development and future? Storybook Dads with their simple, but brilliant idea sets to bridge this gap that prison causes.

Is prison a punishment? A deterrent? Or a correctional facility?

An age old question that is never adequately answered.  All of the above I guess. But where we can agree is that families blighted by crime and prison are very often at the bottom of our societies and caught up in a vicious cycle that repeats itself.

Breaking this cycle is an improvement for us all – and connecting incarcerated parent and child is a small step in the right direction. 

As well as the benefits to parent and child of the recorded story, the charity has greater ambitions also and particularly in the field of training and development.

The charity has funded and trained over 600 prisoners to develop editing,  recording, audio and video production skills. 20 UK prisons now have their editing facilities – offering prisoners vital training and a chance to improve their life chances on their release.  

The charity now employs 20 ex-prisoners as editors at its head office – where CD’s from 120 UK prisons are produced by prisoners for their children.  In 2017, over 5000 CD’s were produced, each treasured no doubt, by the children receiving them. 

And finally, literacy skills!

Perhaps the most fundamental learned skill of them all and something we all take for granted.

But a great many prisoners are illiterate which blights their life chances considerably. 

The difficulty this poses to reading a story are obvious but something this brave charity can accommodate. And in involving the parent in the education and literacy of their children, in-turn, the literacy deficiencies of the parent are addressed also 

The charities that attract the most income are the ones with tangible illnesses. Life limiting illnesses and particularly indiscriminate diseases that could visit us. 

 Storybook Dads does not sit in this sector at all. Prisoners are locked away so that the law abiding can get on with our lives.

Any civilised society feels a need to help people who are less advantaged in life.  But not just with handouts. In a fashion that empowers them to help themselves with dignity and pride. 

Storybook Dads does precisely this. And mums, I add again. They are in fact active in 10 women’s prisons in the UK. 

And why The Brothers Trust is proud to be able to support them.

The Empowerment Plan

We are excited to share news of a grant that we made recently to a charity based in Detroit called The Empowerment Plan.

Thankfully, homelessness is relatively rare. It is very unlikely that it will happen to any of us and yet it is something that affects us all. Whether in London or any big city, no matter how wealthy it is, we encounter people living on the streets. Always an arresting site but particularly so during the cold months when we need to hurry home.

Clearly, the problem of homelessness is much more complex than just challenging economics. Mental health, family breakdown, drug abuse… the list goes on and what is often seen as an intractable problem. 

Intractable that is, until The Empowerment Plan was born. 

Its name alone is a clue. Empowering people to help themselves.

This progressive charity was founded to provide coats for homeless people but quickly became much more than this when its inspiring founder, Veronika Scott was confronted by an angry homeless person, complaining that she did not want a coat, she wanted a job.

A light bulb moment for Veronika because The Empowerment Plan became precisely this. It manufactures specialist  coats which convert in to sleeping bags. Specially designed for rough sleepers and also providing training and jobs for homeless and other vulnerable people. 

Coats for homeless people, made by homeless people. A great example of completing a circle and breaking a cycle. 

Since its inception in 2012, The Empowerment Plan has provided employment to 50 homeless people, all of whom have used their new skills and income to secure permanent housing for themselves and their families, not to mention the 25,000 coats that have been provided to people across America and the world. 

This charity is a perfect fit for The Brothers Trust. A small charity in need of help and publicity so that it can continue its great work with very obvious and tangible results. They are supported by individuals, companies and trusts like ours. The model works and why they are ambitious and would like to roll it out across the US and beyond. 

It costs $125 to produce a coat and so our donation (made possible by our supporters) will produce 200 coats – 10 of which are now in the UK and being put to good use.

Thank you for your support without which we couldn’t help great charities like this.

https://www.empowermentplan.org

No one likes waiting for a bus...

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LunchBowl is a charity that feeds and educates young children in Kibera, Kenya, the largest slum in Africa.

There is much to admire about LunchBowl. That it is run entirely by volunteers and that 97 pence in every pound raised is spent on the ground. Charities efforts in the third world are currently under much scrutiny and rightly so with funds being misappropriated and shameful human rights abuses coming to light also. But this must not mean that help is diverted elsewhere and away from people in dire need. LunchBowl has people working on the ground so that we have complete confidence that all the funds are spent where they should be and in the most effective manner. As fundraising continues, LunchBowl are scheduled to open a new school and kindergarten in Jan ‘19 for up to 300 children. The Brothers Trust have donated £33,000 to purchase a school bus to help transport these children to and fro school each day. As well as feeding children, LunchBowl understands that giving an education is the best route out of poverty. Something we in the 1st world too often take for granted.

A helping hand to Debra

In memory of the inspirational James Dunn we continue to support Debra

In memory of the inspirational James Dunn we continue to support Debra

Debra is the charity founded to help people with the disease called Epidermolysis Bullosa - but better known as EB. It is the disease James Dunn suffered with and died from in April this year. Nurses at the world renown Great Ormond Street Hospital in London are on record as saying that EB is the worst condition a person can be born with. Put simply, EB, in its various forms is when someone’s skin does not function as it should. It tears and rips at the slightest touch and as skin is the largest organ and extends throughout our bodies inside and out, it does not take much to imagine how debilitating it is and the pain that patients continually endure. There is no cure only salving the pain of this life limiting and in some cases, fatal condition.

The Brothers Trust is therefore proud to be able to continue to support Debra here in the UK with a further grant of £40,000 to completely fund a Community Support Manager, responsible for 400 individuals and their families affected by EB in the south of England. To provide them with financial help, emotional needs, housing complexities, accessing help and education support and planning. Living ourselves in this region, we will come to know this manager and will be able to feed back and demonstrate tangible examples of how your funds are reaching people with EB.

Having a baby with EB must come as a terrible shock to parents. It is a condition that will affect their child and their own lives forever. Typically, a parent and usually the mum will need to become the full-time carer of the child and with this comes emotional strains as well as financial pressures.

Helping such patients and their families is a blessing, made possible by the generosity of our supporters. On behalf of the people who will benefit from this grant, thank you very much.

A mini update

Firstly, apologies for not reporting back of late and in any great depth either - as busy as things are, this is no excuse and we promise to get better in this area going forward.

As yet, no monies from the recent campaign have been allocated but as and when we do make grants, we will be delighted to share with you how your funds are being spent.

In the meantime, you will know that we are supporting a local charity called Momentum - a charity founded out of the hospital where Tom, Sam, Harry and Paddy were all born. Momentum works with the families who have children with life limiting conditions, most commonly, cancer. Our contribution of £11,000 has provided a family support worker to liaise and support such families with a terminally ill child in the last months and days of their life and where necessary afterwards also. Part of this money was also allocated to provide 10 such families to enjoy a holiday in the New Forest Cabins that Momentum own. It must be a bewildering experience for such families but something that needs to be coped with. The simple things like connecting them with families in a similar situation or organising an evening for children and their families to come together are all important and can confidently report that Momentum are easing the pain for these families and are grateful to you for your support.

Today, Nikki and I met with Debra - the charity caring for people afflicted with EB - many of you will remember James Dunn I am sure? We talked of many ways that The Brothers Trust will continue to support Debra and there is potential for an exciting tie in between Debra shops and the John Foundation who we support in India - with details to follow. We also discussed establishing support for a charity in the USA and Debra might be a great a great place to start.

LunchBowl continue to do staggering work in Kenya. Heidi and Jenny who are integral to success of The Brothers Trust - introduced us to this charity - feeding and educating the world’s poorest kids in the world’s biggest slum dwelling - and our plans are to purchase a school bus for them and much else besides going forward.

The John Foundation is committed to taking women in India out of the sex trade. These women are trained in clothing manufacturing so that they acquire the skills necessary to gain employment and rekindle their lives with a fresh start. Our grant has allowed the John Foundation to build a new hostel to house 12 more victims. To square the circle, we have plans for the clothing factory where the women are trained to start making merchandise for The Brothers Trust which could be sold with the money raised being re-invested in this and other ventures that we support.

This is an excellent idea and so little surprise to anyone who knows us as a family - that it was Nikki’s idea and not mine!

As you can imagine, this grates on me…

And finally to say, thank you because without your support The Brothers Trust cannot help anyone!

Our biggest event to date

Eric with The Brothers Trust  team.

Eric with The Brothers Trust team.

Thanks SO much to everyone who donated and took part in our biggest event to date. The amount raised was completely amazing and we are very grateful; as will be the people that we can now help. 

Keep following our Instagram to see how we spend it.

We were lucky to have a lovely winner - Eric Wyant from Seattle in Washington, USA. Eric flew in on 1st September, on the red-eye and sore-back, landing at 6.30am. A Limo met him at Heathrow and whisked him to the world famous Savoy hotel, in central London. Nikki and a couple of other BT helpers were on-hand to greet Eric. The hotel generously provided Eric with a suite which was very kind of them and very welcome after such a long journey.

Our plan was to let Eric sightsee for the rest of the day (or sleep) and then then to be collected the following day for the set visit and the meeting with Tom...

But then everything changed with a frantic phone call from Tom. His schedule had been changed and he was suddenly no longer filming the next day. Eric’s sleep would need to wait if he wanted to see Tom on set and hear the word ‘action.’

It was all very frantic. A taxi was hailed and we were on our way across town to the Warner Bros film studios. Marvel execs hovered nervously and clutched non-disclosure agreements which we all needed to sign, even Nikki! Eric met with Tom but the filming that was too secret for any of us to see - a wonder that they ever trust Tom!

Because of this, Tom invited Eric back to set two days later when he did get to see some filming and have lunch in his trailer which was probably not as good as The Savoy, but I guess, more exciting?

Eric will have to wait until the movie is released before he's given the pics that were taken of him with Tom on the set... but in the meantime, here are a few snaps of Eric in London.

Eric, you were a delight to host. Thank you for making the trip and once again, to all the people who support The Brothers Trust.

A few words from our competition winner Eric

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“First off, I would like to thank Tom, Nikki, and Harry, as well as the rest of The Brother’s Trust team for a remarkable trip to London! I would also like to thank Harrison, and everyone else at the studio for showing me some of the behind-the-scenes processes involved in film making.

 

When I first found out that I won this trip, a rush of emotions came over me, and that rush didn’t stop until I found myself back at home. From the moment my plane touched down, to meeting everyone at The Brother’s Trust, to hanging out on-set with Tom, to my tour of the Harry Potter studio, to visits at some of the most historic sites in London, to my stay at the fabulous Savoy, I had to constantly pinch myself to confirm that this was all not a dream.

 

I cannot thank everyone enough for making me feel welcome, and for showing me a wonderful time. I also cannot wait to see all the great work The Brother’s Trust is able to do. After meeting everyone involved with The Brother’s Trust, the sky truly is the limit for the great work they will be able to perform.”

Exciting new grant

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We are delighted to share with our supporters news of a grant that we have made to the John Foundation. We have granted this remarkable charity $30,000 to build a new refuge home in India to house and train young women and children from dreadful circumstances and poverty;  to offer them security, love and most importantly vital training to become self sufficient and independent again.

The John Foundation does remarkable things and if we could just precis their work to give you some context and why we have given them such a substantial grant. 

The John Foundation was founded in 2007 by Saji and Cynthia John. Saji himself, had been one of sixteen children rescued and cared for in the Karnataka State of India by Swedish social workers. Saji owes his life and subsequent success to these good people and their work. Having experienced such hardship himself, Saji and his wife, Cynthia decided that they must offer a similar service to the many children in their region who have a desperate existence and are in desperate need.

This began in 2007 when a stranger approached the couple with two children, abandoned by their family and living on the slum streets of Hyderabad. These children became the first of many children rescued and rehabilitated by the John Foundation.

Most often, these children are rescued from sex traffickers. Children working as prostitutes or the unwanted children of prostitutes, their life circumstances are abject; their prospects are hopeless and bleak. Sadly, children are a resource and traffickers target poor areas, lying to their parents with promises of good jobs, only for the girls to become economic slaves in illicit factories or worse to be used as prostitutes.       

This disastrous reality is combatted by the John Foundation and from their unlikely beginnings, its achievements are tangible and remarkable. 

  • As of 2017, John foundation serves:
    • 202 orphaned and semi-orphaned children live in 17 Children’s Homes
    • 40 girls rescued from Commercial Sex Work and Temple prostitution live in 4 Restoration-Transformation Homes
    • 495 children of single mothers attend the Asha Back to School Program
    • 490 students at risk of school dropout receive tutoring in 17 Asha Tuition (tutoring) Centers
    • Over 4600 single mothers and girls who dropped out of school have attended the employable skills training program. Today, 89% of these students are employed

Of particular interest to The Brothers Trust is the emphasis and energy that the John Foundation invests in training to create independent young adults who can go on to lead successful lives.  Their slogan is - Bringing hope the sustainable way.

Along with other developing economies, India clothes the world. The snazzy and sought-after clothing brands that we all crave; there is a high chance that many of these garments are made in India. Textiles is one of the world industries and its demand for skilled workers is insatiable. The John Foundation recognises this and understands that possessing such skills  provides a pathway to success and independence.

Himself, a doctor, it is no surprise that Saji values the power of education to combat poverty and we are assured that his Foundation is confronting poverty by breaking the cycle with sustainable outcomes for the people it serves.

In the first instance, The John Foundation provides the love and care that traumatised children and young women require but central to its purpose is creating independence and to this end, it has a series of income generating endeavours which equally provide vital training opportunities also.

The Foundation has established two garment factories (ethically run and organised of course).  Similarly, a book shop and beauty parlour, a gift-line as well as the more formal education facilities that we all take for granted. And finally, Saji, with his business mind has founded a very successful series of micro-loans for people to establish businesses and truly become self-sufficient. An impressive 95% of all loans granted by the Foundation are repaid in full from the success of these businesses. 

The Foundation have acquired land for two more homes. Each home is 1450 sq feet and costs $20.55 per sq feet to build. They have applied to our trust for the money ($29,800) to build one of these homes. We have approved this grant in full.

We would like to add that the work of The John Foundation was brought to out attention by a trustee of The Brothers Trust who has visited India on many occasions where he has met  The John Foundation and seen their work and accomplishments. On our site, we will update you with photographs and news of the new building and the work that it can achieve and assure you that if any members of The Brothers Trust should visit Saji, the costs of any trips will not be borne by The Brothers Trust but by us personally.

Thank you for helping us and allowing us to make this grant. We encourage you to visit their site to learn more about their work. www.thejohnfoundation.org

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Avengers Infinity War Screening

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A little along the experience curve already, our latest event was the easiest and most successful to date. It was a private screening of Avengers Infinity War and it helps that the film has enjoyed the biggest opening in cinema history and that Tom is now much better established in his role within the MCU.

The theatre was packed with people who had travelled from all over the world. Across the buy it nows, raffle tickets, selfies and poster sales, the event raised over £50,000, all of which will now be distributed to worthy causes both here in the UK and abroad.

The day was great fun. The sun shone brightly and the only absence was Sam and Harry who are in Australia on their year off. Year off from what, I have asked?

As ever, thank you to everyone who attended and took part. People who won raffle tickets but were unable to attend will have received signed posters by now and we hope they are some consolation for not living close enough to the UK. We have big plans and hopes for our trust; for further such events, big and small and (eventually, such screenings in territories outside the UK) and we hope to offer Brothers Trust Merchandise at some point too.

We have a great video of the day to share once we have overcome the tech difficulties in uploading it!

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Our tribute to James Dunn

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James Dunn 13/07/1993 – 6/04/2018

A life that is lived to its maximum potential is a joy and a success; it is all anyone of us can hope for. Anything less is a shame and even a waste and in this noble quest, James Dunn showed us all the way to go.

I met James through the establishment of The Brothers Trust. Such was his influence on us all, meeting James alone is reason enough for establishing the trust and given the impact that he had on us all, it is remarkable that we knew him for less than less than a year.

We met James for the first time in July 2017, at the launch of our charity; a screening of Spider-Man, Homecoming at a private cinema for raffle winners and auction bidders to see the film and a chance to meet Tom. I was already aware of EB and its charity, Debra. I knew what a pernicious disease that EB is; memorably described by a nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital as the worst disease that can blight anyone’s life. I was also attracted to its cause because of the lack of awareness of the disease which made it feel like a good fit for our trust. 

 

I viewed a video on-line of James having his wounds dressed by his mum. A heart rending watch, it moved me to tears and we invited James to our first event.

I was anxious on the day. There was much to think about. Winners had travelled from all four corners of the world but no attendees were dealing with the obstacles that James needed to scale. Wheelchair bound, I worried about his access to the cinema and the toilet not to mention our house later in the day for a photo-shoot. I fretted about everything until the family rolled up and I saw James’s beaming smile. James was not worried. He looked so excited, like a kid without a care in the world. Only James was not a kid of course. He was twenty-four when he died, his EB stunting and preventing his growth.

Regulars readers of this blog will know what blossomed between James and Tom from this original meeting. They met several times and in a short but exciting journey that took in TV appearances, dinner at the Langham with the country’s foremost chefs, a portrait campaign using James’ photograph and much else besides.

When people die, very often, clichés are used to depict their bravery and the impact that they had. I make no apologies for making these claims here now for James. He did light up a room. He was a force of energy and he was as brave as a lion.

So much to admire about James but what stood out above all else was his fortitude. We are all dealt different hands in life; with some people so seemingly blessed and others so blighted. James had a tough lot and so he had every reason to be disconsolate and complaining. In the times that I was lucky enough to meet him, he never once showed any anger or complaint and nor did he hanker for any pity. He just got on with his life. He had a verve for life which meant that his life was full, which is what we all strive for.

During our brief time, what we all hope to do is to leave our mark. To be survived by our children and hope that they prosper is such a mark. Other people manage more indelible legacies: Shakespeare, Stan Lee, Steve Jobs, JK Rowling…

James Dunn, too, has left his mark and in so many ways. The funds that he raised for Debra is an obvious place to start. Nikki’s idea to use James’ photograph of Tom now seems particularly inspired because it is a tangible reminder of James and it is fitting that his photo means so much to people and that they hang on walls across the world. We know this because we dispatched them ourselves to China, Australia, Brazil, America… The people who own these images and all the people who participated and contributed to this campaign, your kindness lives on in James’s legacy, so thank you.

But James’ greatest mark is his example of how he lived. Most poignantly for his fellow EB sufferers to note that the disease didn’t limit James in his life and what he was able to achieve. Travelling can be difficult at the best of times: inconvenient and even painful for the able bodied; imagine then the problems it posed for James and yet he travelled and took in the world.

And in a wider context, James is an example to us all. All of us tend to live our lives in bubbles. Of viewing life through our restrictions rather than our blessings and too quickly blaming others feeling sorry for ourselves. James didn’t do this at all and why meeting him was always so humbling. His EB caused him ongoing and constant pain such that daily morphine was part of his daily life. His injuries were on show for all to see and his pain was palpable. Even after his arm was removed and his cancer had returned and the treatment was only containment, James was busy making plans. Posting his videos and continuing his fight and always with that broad smile of his.

Any account of James’s life is incomplete without mention of his remarkable parents, Kenny and Lesley. The success of James’s life is a testament to their love and commitment to their son. They are a stoic couple, both so dignified and admirable. It is no mystery to me why James could thrive. Less loving and strong people could not have coped with a child like James and why Debra (www.debra.org) deserves our support and better awareness of the work that they do.

Meeting and getting to know James has been a privilege for us all. Of all the illustrious people that Tom encounters in his blessed life, in the short time that he has known James, I venture that his impact on Tom will be indelible and as marked as any.

James coined a moto for his himself in how to live his life - #LiveLaughLove

A simple philosophy but one that is perhaps easier said than done. James managed it with aplomb and why he is an example to us all.

Your pain is finally over James. Rest in peace and thank you.