Sheena’s school meals project melts hearts and brings Leicester closer together

By Maria Regina Santos Semedo

Two months ago, Sheena Thakrar came across an announcement saying that there would be no more free school meals vouchers for children during half term or Christmas holidays.

For families who were, in some cases, scared to ask for help, Sheena decided to create Project MK in order to give them supplies with which to celebrate the holidays.

She started right away contacting schools and sharing her ideas on social media, and saw the Leicester community starting to get together to contribute by giving different products and donating money.

Sheena explained how her aunt’s death gave her a name for the project: “I lost my Mina Kaki nine years ago. When I had my first meeting with a school and saw that this was really happening, I knew I had to dedicate this to her. That is why it is called Project MK.”

The initial plan was to help 101 families who were celebrating the holidays but ended up helping 140. Reaching families through schools, Sheena discovered that many had no money to even buy a Christmas tree.

She added: “I always asked the kids if they could have anything this Christmas, what would it be. One of them asked me for an angel, and of course I bought him one.”

During the past two months, the project has been able to receive over £3,000 in donations through the website Gofundme and 90 different products to give to the different families.

Despite the project being successful, it faced some difficulties because of the Covid pandemic.

“The whole situation made things vulnerable, but nothing was going to stop me from helping these families,” Sheena explained.

Understanding that people need help all through the year, she still feels very surprised and amazed with everything that has happened.

“The community has come together. Everyone helped me deliver the festive hampers. Family, friends and the community itself were more united than ever.”

Sheema now plans to register the project in order to have a charity number and understand where else help is needed.

She also confided that her biggest dream is to build schools in India, her homeland, and that this project made her have an opportunity. If you wish to know more about this project and its plans, visit Project MK Leicester’s gofundme page and Sheena Thakrar’s Instagram page.

Rainbows Hospice virtualises festive events to keep families safe this Christmas

By Jayden Whitworth

The Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People has this year adapted its usual festive events in order to abide by local COVID-19 restrictions in Leicestershire.

This year, the team at Rainbows have set up a few events to ensure not all Christmas spirit is lost this winter. 

One of the events that has been set up is a Virtual Santa’s Grotto whereby children can either receive a pre-recorded message from Santa for £5 or a zoom video call can be set up for £12, with 100 per cent of proceeds being donated to the hospice in Loughborough.

Another of the events that they are running this year is a virtual Christmas concert with a host of performances from local schools, choirs and musicians, which is taking place at 4pm on Sunday (DEC20).

There is no upfront cost for this concert however any donations to the Rainbows Hospice will be welcomed.

In normal circumstances a Santa fun run would also be set up in Derby, however this has been adjusted so families can take part remotely, with Santa suits available to buy online.

Karen Nicholson, senior PR officer at Rainbows, said: “COVID-19 has seen donations decrease.

“We are facing losses of up to £1 million.

“We’ve had to cancel our events and our shops have been forced to close down.

“Usually, a Santa run would take place at Elvaston Castle in Derby and an average of 500 people would take part.

“It would be safe to say hundreds of people have signed up to the virtual Santa fun run this year.

“In regard to whether virtual events have the same effect on children, I would say people seem to be getting into the festive spirit the best they can.”

Donations can be made by visiting rainbows.co.uk or alternatively you can call 01509 638 000.

Further information on all virtual events can also be found on the website.

De Montfort University continues to promote world-improving research

By Auryn White

De Montfort University is the UK’s only Sustainable Development Goal Hub and has been doing ground-breaking work to effectively improve the world.

Sustainable Development Goals (STGs) are 17 goals that were set by the United Nations (UN) in September 2015.

These goals are 17 agreed targets that the world must reach by 2030 to ensure sustainable development for all, including environmental, social and economic standards that must be met.

De Montfort University (DMU) has been allocated STG-16 “to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

Simply put, goal 16 is about “peace, justice and strong institutions” and suggests that a society cannot thrive while war is going on. The goal also supports the idea of inclusivity in society and justice for all.

Mark Charlton, Associate Director of Public Engagement and one of the drivers of the project at DMU, said STG-16 is one of the most important of the 17 goals and without its application many of the other goals will not be able to be met.

He said: “STG-16 is crucial as it allows all the others to flourish. If you want to achieve zero poverty, STG-1, then this cannot be achieved in a society at war or facing corruption.”

DMU is joined by 16 other countries representing the rest of the STGs, with one STG being allocated to one establishment in each country. Meetings online have been held among the other countries including India, Greece, Pakistan, Japan, etc.

Despite Covid restrictions, a dialogue has been able to be held between the representative nations. As well as this, before Covid, Mark had attended the UN to present findings on behalf of DMU showing a healthy working relationship within the movement.

STG-16 is also seen as the measure which supports refugee and asylum-seeker communities and promotes equal rights for them.

As a result of this it has attracted many people who belong to these and similar backgrounds, with ZamZam Yusuf, a DMU student and Somalian refugee who fled the country due to war, speaking at the UN about her experiences as a refugee.

DMU has been a part of this project since January 2018 continues to prioritise the promotion of STG-16 and the others for the betterment of the world.

Serving army members tackle massive 280-mile walk for charity

By Ben Stevens

A group of serving members of the British army are among those walking the total length of the Maginot Line to raise money for a charity that supports army veterans.

‘Team Bimble’ from around Leicestershire and Rutland and aged 25 to 41, are walking 280 miles in total over a ten-day period which began last Thursday and will culminate in a walk around the edge of Rutland Water on the 19th December for the charity Walking With The Wounded.

Comprising of those currently in the forces and a full time NHS nurse, the group have already raised over £500, but hope to raise even more.

Roisin Conde-Wilcock, among those walking, said: “This charity works closely with the NHS and they provide amazing support for veterans, whether it’s housing, monetary support or mental health services.

“Every year they do Walking Home for Christmas, which has had more of a push this year due to the lack of funding.”

Support for veterans has been cut in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic worsening the situation.

Ms Conde-Wilcock added: “The guys who are currently serving obviously know how important it is to receive mental health support.

“COVID-19 is affecting mental health more than ever before, so if charities do not fundraise then those who are vulnerable become even more vulnerable.”

Walking with the Wounded has been very successful in the past in providing support for veterans.

In 2019, the charity supported almost 2,000 individual veterans and provided over 4,000 mental health support sessions to veterans and their families with 86p of every pound going straight to those in need.

If you would like to donate to ‘Team Bimble’ and their cause, you can do so by clicking the link: https://www.walkinghomeforchristmas.com/teams/team-bimble?fbclid=IwAR3_nJWNvI_DXXTqeC6bKVa8BPT-cy467ZbFzpvLaXGUXb-uxdP8JTsCzsI

Students at De Montfort University remind the elderly they are not forgotten

By Molly Talbot

Students at De Montfort University have come together this year with Age UK for Christmas, in a heartfelt mission to remind the elderly people of Leicester that they are not alone.

Every Christmas there is a large proportion of elderly residents, both in Leicester and worldwide, having to face the festive season alone, this year more than ever.

Through DMUlocal, which is a bridge between the university and local community, De Montfort University has supported the campaign “Not forgotten this winter”, run by Age UK.

The cards sent with the Age UK packages. The message reading: “This is a Christmas like no other but please remember you are not forgotten. These hard times shall pass, and you will come out of it stronger. Sending you light, strength and warmth this Christmas. From a stranger who cares x

The campaign involves sending out a care package to the elderly who are facing Christmas alone. DMU students had the chance to add their own personal message to the greeting card, a wonderful opportunity to make a difference.

Senior public engagement manager for DMU, Sunita Patel, said: “It doesn’t take a lot to do but it has a lot of impact.”

She added: “We can all relate to isolation this year,” justifying the tremendous effort made by members of De Montfort University.

The response from the university was touching, having faced just two weeks to gather messages, they received around 80 responses, which were multiplied several times to create hundreds of copies that were sent out with an Age UK care package.

Any spare messages were sent to another charity that works closely with the elderly, Leicestershire Cares.

The response to the campaign is particularly brilliant due to the hard times the community has faced this year, especially the vulnerable who endured months of social isolation.

The university has worked with Age UK in the past, hosting Christmas dinners for the residents who may have had to sit alone at their table and plan to resume these again as soon as it is safe to do so.

The university also intends to repeat this year’s campaign, there are always lots of ways to give to and support our vulnerable element of the community.