DEDICATED charity worker Lauren Wilkinson is set to continue her invaluable work after seeing off thousands of hopefuls in a nationwide initiative.
The 23-year-old volunteer has been doing administration and marketing work with Hartlepool Families First but it seemed unlikely the Greatham Street-based charity could keep her on as she needed to find paid employment.
Now she has won funding from the charitable arm of the global communications company Vodafone who will pay for her to work there for the next four months.
Hartlepool Families First has a special place in the heart of the Hartlepool community for the wide-range of services it provides.
That was shown by the tremendous response to the Hartlepool Mail’s Buy A Bus Appeal which saw more than £12,000 raised to buy a replacement double decker for the charity.
Managers say that Lauren has proved an integral part of their team since she started there and are delighted she will now be around for longer.
Lauren, of the Oxford Road area of Hartlepool, said: “I was absolutely thrilled to find out I’d won a place on the Vodafone World of Difference programme.
“The scheme is a fantastic opportunity to do some outstanding charity work at Hartlepool Families First with the might of Vodafone behind me.
“It’s a massive achievement to have won a four-month contract and continue my work at Hartlepool Families First.
“I think it’s fantastic that a huge company as prestigious as Vodafone is supporting the voluntary sector, especially Hartlepool Families First whose work in the community is invaluable to families in Hartlepool.’’
The World of Difference scheme will enable me to use the skills and knowledge I learned at university and help Hartlepool Families First with a range of marketing activities to encourage more families to use their useful services.
“Hartlepool Families First has a positive effect on so many people’s lives including adults, children, and people with disabilities.
“Having been a member of the office team for around ten months in a voluntary capacity, I have first-hand experience of the brilliant work Hartlepool Families First contributes and I recognise the importance of the services it delivers.
“It is a very meaningful charity that benefits people living in Hartlepool. The work of Hartlepool Families First is varied and always changing and there are frequently new projects to promote to people.
“I think I am a competent individual and would like to use my knowledge and skills to help the charity increase its popularity and encourage more families to use our services.
“I admire the varied work the charity does especially its focus on children with profound disabilities. Their work has a significant impact on the children’s quality of life and is inspiring and invaluable.
“It’s clear to see from working here that the children love to come here and that it means the world to them.”
Lauren, who has a BA Honours degree in Advertising Management from Northumbria University, will oversee the marketing and promotion of a string of new and existing projects at the charity.
Hartlepool Families First manager Paul Thompson said: “We are overwhelmed that an international company has chosen us as a charity they wish to support.
“It is great that Vodafone wants to back a local charity that works in the local community.
“Lauren’s work will help to spread our message about the wide range of services we provide and that will make a huge difference to the community we serve.”
A Vodafone spokeswoman said: “This is the third year that the Vodafone Foundation has delivered a UK World of Difference programme, giving 500 people the chance to make a difference.
“Over 5,000 people registered interest for the programme which will see placements start in March.
“Hartlepool Families First is a charity that works with children with profound and multiple disabilities along with promoting good health.
“Lauren’s role within the charity will be as marketing officer and that will increase the number of people attending the projects.”
The Vodafone World of Difference programme, delivered by the Vodafone Foundation, is open to anyone over 18 in the UK and the Channel Islands who has the drive and commitment to work with a charity.
l For more information visit vodafone.co.uk/worldofdifference.