Resilience & Recycling - A Great Partnership
In this blog, we're delighted to tell you about our new partnership with Hillhead Primary, a school based in the West End of Glasgow.
The last 18 months have brought unexpected challenges to so many families across the country. Recognising this impact close to home, the school community at Hillhead have come together to support one another. They established a 'Resilience Fund' on the GoFundMe platform, and have so far raised almost £1500. Amazing!
We spent some time chatting with Rhian Williams, Hillhead's Chair of the Parent Council, who has also volunteered with AXC for some time. Thanks to Rhian's idea of bringing us together, the Resilience Fund can now be used to provide preloved clothing and footwear for young people, as and when it's needed, in a discreet and respectful way.
Reducing clothing poverty, reducing environmental impact, and coming together with kindness and generosity. We are so proud to be a part of this project.
ApparelXchange: Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you became involved as a volunteer with ApparelXchange?
Rhian: "Hello! For a long time I worked as an academic at the University of Glasgow, but I knew I wanted to make a leap out and work differently. A former colleague and good friend told me all about ApparelXchange and I just loved everything about it! As I’m the main carer for my young daughter, I needed to be flexible in how I work and it’s been just brilliant working with the AXC team on writing copy and making images."
AXC: What is your role with the Parent Council? How did you become involved?
RW: "I joined our Parent Council when my daughter started at the School, just as a way to get to know how things worked. A year or so later I became more involved through a small group working on equality and diversity. Then in February 2021 I completely unexpectedly became the Chair!
It’s hard work, but really interesting and I appreciate the opportunities to support our community, especially as we come out of lockdowns. I have always been really committed to supporting our environment and its species through climate change (in my other life I work on ‘ecopoetry’…) and this is an important factor in how I’ve been working with our Parent Council (and another reason why I love AXC’s green economy model)."
AXC: Where did the idea for this Resilience Fund come from?
RW: "Part way through the hard winter lockdown, our Headteacher reported that the numbers of children at our school qualifying for free school meals had tripled in a year, confirming that times were hard for our families. A very enterprising parent immediately jumped into action and raised several hundred pounds from their class to buy food vouchers. The Parent Council were so impressed at the kindness in this gesture, and wanted to develop it. We set up a fund that anyone could contribute to, and which anyone could turn to for help. We now help with purchasing clothes, food, and household goods."
AXC: How did you go about setting it up? How does it work?
RW: "It was quite tricky… We wanted anyone associated with the School to be able to donate easily, but we also wanted families to be reassured that everything about the scheme would be discreet and respectful. In the end we decided to use the Go Fund Me platform, which allows organisations to use their group bank account, and offers a good degree of anonymity.
Folk donate through that and the monies come to our bank account (minus a small fee) each month. There it is earmarked for the Resilience Fund and our treasurer uses it to purchase supermarket and ApparelXchange vouchers on the School’s behalf. These are then handed to the headteacher who, together with his senior team, are always available to chat to families and can then provide this immediate help.
It is absolutely vital to us that the fund is sensitive and supportive — we wanted simple, respectful, easy to use. And we got there in the end!"
AXC: What were your challenges?
RW: "Go Fund Me is quite hard to navigate in the set-up stage (although the customer support is actually excellent). We also had to be very sensitive and thoughtful about how we described and administered the fund, making sure that the City Council supported us (which they did).
Our key point is that this fund is discreet — although the Parent Council raises the funds and advertises its existence, everything else is handled by the teachers, so the families we’ve helped are never identified. There are no application forms or assessments — the idea is that families can simply chat to people they trust, who can then offer help there and then."
AXC: What are your successes so far?
RW: "We’ve raised around £1500 so far, partly helped by a really generous donation from St Silas Church (just near our school) who heard about the fund and wanted to help. We’re delighted at this response.
One of the families that the funds have helped kindly sent a note through the teachers to say, ‘Once again we are reminded how lucky we are to live and work alongside the lovely people of Glasgow and the unique community that exists in and around the school’."
AXC: How will you be working with ApparelXchange?
RW: "It’s so important that families feel empowered and excited by how the fund can help them, and AXC is just brilliant for that! Back before the fund was up and running, I contacted AXC when we had a family in need of emergency help. The team’s amazing efficiency and generosity in that difficult moment really struck me. I knew these were people I could go to in a crisis — I wanted to make that connection formal! So now we are in partnership (including for collecting clothing donations from our School).
We are able to purchase credit that AXC can then convert to vouchers for the shop (in person or online). AXC’s prices and quality are excellent, making this better value for families than purchasing clothes new. Plus, the team is so wonderful at providing a tailored, personal service, helping families put together packages of clothing that make them feel positive and cared for. Our headteacher simply puts the families in touch with AXC and the fund takes care of the money from there."
AXC: What would you advise to others who would like to do the same for their school community?
RW: "Be determined! It is do-able, even if some parts feel quite tricky and technical. We have provided lots of tips and tricks on how to do it to the Glasgow City Parents Group, and to Kathryn Farrow, Glasgow City Council contact for Parent Councils. They are more than happy to share and support."
Hillhead's Head Teacher, Mr Andrew Robson, said:
"I am very keen that when a family reaches out to us for help we are in a position to offer them a range of options that would help support their personal circumstances. Our Parent Council are doing some fantastic work to ensure additional funds can be made available to the school… this is hugely beneficial because it allows us to publicly offer this support knowing that we have appropriate funds in place to help all of the families that might seek our support."
Thank you so much to Rhian and the whole team at Hillhead Primary, who have helped make this Resilience Fund happen, and invited us to take part in such an effective form of community action. Thank you to all those who donate to the fund, and those who donate items to us that can be used to fulfil these clothing packages.