Destination Poland for Rotherham's Looked After ChildrenPublished Thursday, 1st September 2016
Mo Farah's double Olympic joy at Rio has inspired Council leaders to put their running shoes on and raise money to help send some of the borough's most vulnerable children on a trip of a lifetime.
Three years ago 16-year-old Simon hit rock bottom after his Polish heritage father died.
Devastated, the youngster – who is currently in foster care - vowed he would one day return to his father's homeland with the aim of understanding his heritage. However, getting there seemed an impossible dream.
That was until Councillor Brian Steele and Ian Thomas, Strategic Director of Children's Services at the Council, heard of his plight and said they would do something to make his dream come true. This vision was backed by Chief Executive Sharon Kemp and senior leaders across the Rotherham Partnership, who also pledged their support to raise the finances to not only send Simon to Poland, but also all of the rest of the Looked After Children's Council (LACC), which Simon is part of.
Ian and Councillor Steele will be leading a ten mile walk around Thrybergh Country Park alongside the LACC while Sharon and key partners will be running at Herringthorpe Stadium. All are now working hard to raise sponsorship for these events.
Other people have also pledged their support, including Young Inspectors chair Ashlea Harvey, who will be cycling the route between her home in Barnsley, Wombwell and her work in Rotherham to help raise the £9,000 needed to send the 14 children abroad.
Simon, who got his GCSEs last week and plans to train to be an RSPCA inspector, said: "I am just so grateful to all the people who want to raise this money to send us all to Poland. I miss my Dad so much and to be able to visit the place where he was from and what made him the person he was is a dream of a lifetime for me. Thank you to everyone who has already pledged their support and please, please get behind this good cause and help us all to live my dream. I know this will have a tremendous effect on me and my peers, if we get to go."
"This is a trip of a lifetime for these children,"added Ian Thomas. "Simon's story really struck a chord with me and I knew I had to do something to help him achieve his dream. That is why I am going to walk the ten miles along with Councillor Steele and the LACC and I hope people will sponsor me to do so. These children have had hard issues to deal with in their young lives, and if we can raise the money to help them with their cause it will be a massive boost for them."
Chief Executive Sharon Kemp, and other chief executives from partner organisations are running a marathon in relay. She said: "When Ian told me about Simon's story I wanted to help. Not only will this be a huge adventure for these children, but it will also be an educational visit which I know they will never forget. The least I can do is run a few miles to help raise the money needed and I hope people get behind this good cause and raise money too, whether this is via sponsorship or by doing something to raise the funds needed."
The 'Destination Poland' project will be a unique journey of exploration and education for the LACC, supported by staff. The visit, backed by Corporate Parents including senior staff at Rotherham Council and elected members, will enable the children and young people to learn more about anti-fascism, significant events in history and will enable them to bring back their learning to their peers.
The LAC Council is a group of children and young people who are in care and leaving care, aged 11 to 18-years-old. The group provides an opportunity for them to get their voices heard and work together to influence positive decisions to improve the lives of young people living in care in Rotherham.
The trip, which will include visits to Schindler's Factory Museum, a guided tour around Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Salt Mine in Wieliczka, is planned for next spring time. Ian and the team will be walking the ten miles on 17 September while Sharon and colleagues will be running on 15 September.
To sponsor the teams please visit the Just Giving page.