Hartlepool twins get their sister act together for charity on opposite sides of world

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A sister act have raised more than £5,000 so far for a charity appeal - despite being on opposite sides of the world.

Hartlepool twins Fiona and Natalie Connolly are two of more than 60 individuals and groups raising money for a new respite caravan for the town’s young carers.

Their support means the UChangeLives25 appeal has now raised around £32,000 of its £50,000 target.

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While Fiona is cycling 10km every day for 25 consecutive days at her home in Wynyard, Natalie’s aim is to complete 25 different adventures over two months from her New Zealand base.

From left, Natalie and Fiona Connolly before lockdown last year.From left, Natalie and Fiona Connolly before lockdown last year.
From left, Natalie and Fiona Connolly before lockdown last year.

The efforts both centre on the number 25 to highlight how many hours of unpaid work on average a young carer does every week.

Fiona, who owns Lyla Belle’s Cafe, on Tees Bay Retail Park, said: “This past year since lockdown I have done more exercise than I used to so that has helped but this is more than I am used to. I am fine so far, I started on March 1, I thought I would be aching more – I hope I can keep it up.”

Fiona, who was due to open Lyla Belle’s on the day the Government announced that no new businesses could open last March, has raised more than £3,000 so far from her challenge.

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“It’s amazing,” she said. “Before the challenge I didn’t realise how bad the young carers had it, especially because of Covid-19 - they have been at home 24/7 for almost a year. It is crazy.

Fiona Connolly on her exercise bike.Fiona Connolly on her exercise bike.
Fiona Connolly on her exercise bike.

“Me and my sister, growing up, we always helped around the house, it was just helping, it wasn’t because we had to, but the young carers have to. Getting this caravan would be fantastic because they don’t get a break.”

Natalie is on a student visa in New Zealand where she lives in Tauranga.

She has been doing a mixture of hiking, biking and canoeing around the waterways and trails of North Island and has so far raised more than £2,000.

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Natalie Connolly taking a well-earned break from her hiking.Natalie Connolly taking a well-earned break from her hiking.
Natalie Connolly taking a well-earned break from her hiking.

Fiona and Natalie, aged 26, both went to St Cuthbert’s Primary School and English Martyrs and have not seen each other for more than a year because of the lockdown.

“I video call Natalie every week so she can see my three-year-old daughter Lyla,” said Fiona.

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“We have a catch up, we update each other on the challenge we are doing.“She left for New Zealand just before the lockdown. They are out of lockdown over there, her life is pretty much back to normal.

"She would love to come back to see everyone which is why she wanted to be part of the UChangeLives25 challenge.”

To join Fiona and Natalie Connolly and the rest of the fundraisers, email [email protected].

Alternatively, donations can be made at justgiving.com/pfctrust or text UC25PFC 3 to 70085 (you can donate any amount by changing the number 3). Texts cost one standard rate message plus cost of donation.

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