Charlotte Farrington remembers it as clear as day – a young girl, of only seven, desperately asking her if she could take home leftover cheese sandwiches from the lunch that she and her peers had just eaten.
It was one of Charlotte’s first experiences volunteering for a children’s charity and the organisation had taken a group of schoolchildren out on a trip to a farm in Sheffield.
“This child was fretting, visibly worrying and kept reminding me to make sure I hadn’t forgotten about her taking these sandwiches home,” she recalls.
The little girl, Charlotte learnt, would take lunch home from school each day in order to feed her younger siblings dinner that evening. “She was so worried because it was the first time she had been on a school trip and her concern at seven-years-old was that we had taken her out of school for the day and how was she going to feed her siblings?”
She is emotional now, recalling the incident as we speak via video call. That little girl and her experience was the moment that Charlotte became “hook, line and sinker” involved in supporting children who needed it, and a decade on, she’s still doing just that.
Setting out its vision, the team behind the charity say: “We want to give all children and young people the chance to be their best, and make life more manageable for those who struggle. Being young is all about having fun, and happy children are the vital outcome to our work.”
The charity’s work includes offering grants for individuals, schools and organisations for such items as specialist equipment and wheelchairs, organising fun days for young people facing hardship, and running the Great Yorkshire Build initiative, bringing together contractors and suppliers to deliver state-of-the-art facilities to specialist inclusive learning centres and special educational needs and disabilities schools.
Charlotte has bold ambitions. “We’re a small team trying to deliver big things,” she says. “We want to raise a million in year one and that’s no mean feat. That figure is based on us being able to help a lot of children.
“That’s what we have in our head for us to say we’ve achieved success for the children in our care this year…If we don’t succeed, we’ll sit down and look at what we can do differently and try again next year but I’d rather try and fail than not try at all. That’s the case with everything I do.”
Charlotte moved to Yorkshire at the age of five, leaving school at 16 and going on to agricultural college to pursue what made her happy.
“I’ve always been of the view that whatever I do in life it’s going to be something I enjoy and I love farming,” she says.
She ended up taking a marketing role focusing on the agricultural arm of land and property firm Lister Haigh and from there went into a marketing position with professional services consultancy Begbies Traynor.
A colleague there was involved in children’s charity Variety and Charlotte was asked if she would volunteer to take a group of young people on a trip to the National Railway Museum in York.
“That was my real, first hands on experience of dealing and engaging with children from areas of real deprivation,” Charlotte recalls.
She started volunteering with the organisation, going on to work for them for a number of years. Since January, she’s been at the helm of Yorkshire Children’s Charity.
“Yorkshire is where I call my home and like many Yorkshire folk, I’m proud to talk about the strength of the Yorkshire community and what that represents. But I’m also acutely aware we have a third of our children living in poverty and that was pre-pandemic and pre-cost of living crisis so the situation is only going to be worse.
“I think with Yorkshire, people are always very proud to talk of their heritage but ultimately, we’re in a dire situation when it comes to our children and young people.”
The charity will support children, families and schools from the Yorkshire Dales through to inner-city Sheffield. Charlotte says there’s a particular emphasis initially on East Yorkshire “because that’s where we feel there’s the most need and the fewest number of charities supporting those in need”.
The organisation is already seeing demand for support increasing by the day, with the cost of living crisis hitting families hard after the pandemic, within months of the charity’s launch.
“The pandemic had catastrophic consequences for the charity sector,” Charlotte says. “There are families that have had to wait months, some even years, for help they really need for their family. So we feel we’ve gone in at the deep end but we’ve found it amazing how our supporters have just got what it is we want to do and why we are here and the situation that the families and children we work with are finding themselves in. The support has been phenomenal.”
For Charlotte, an inbuilt desire to help others is what drives her and it is something she has felt more than ever since having children of her own.
“I think you end up working in the charity sector because it’s part of who you are…If I can see a way to fix something or help someone, it feels inbuilt in me that it’s what I need to do.
“I loved my work before I had children but that completely changed my whole perspective on my work. Before I used to look at and read applications that came in with my charity hat on and I think in all truthfulness I now read them as a mum and you instantly put yourself in the shoes of other parents…
“Lots of people will go their entire lives and have absolutely no understanding or comprehension for the struggles that parents face, who have children with disabilities, or what it feels like to be on the breadline. I think it’s a real privilege to have that.
The charity is having its inaugural Yorkshire Clay Shoot fundraising event, to be held at Allerton Park in Knaresborough on Friday, June 10.The shoot, which is open to all skill levels, whether a total novice or seasoned shot is the latest in a calendar of events to help the charity meet its target of making childhood poverty a thing of the past.
Charlotte says: “The Yorkshire Clay Shoot will be an incredibly fun day out for colleagues, friends or family whilst raising much needed funds to support our work in identifying the needs of families, schools and local communities in the region and helping them in practical ways.”