The Importance of Charity at Christmas 

At McCarthy Stone, we value charity work all year round. However, we know that it’s especially important during the festive season; particularly for those who are less fortunate. 

For 2019, we partnered with Coram Beanstalk, a national charity that provides literacy support to children. Last year, roughly 156,000 children left primary school unable to read to the expected level, and Coram Beanstalk’s 100 staff and 3,000 volunteers carry out work across England to try and correct this.

To learn more about Coram Beanstalk and the importance of charity, we spoke with Coram Beanstalk’s Press and Marketing Officer, Kate Rumsby.

An Interview with Kate Rumsby

Could you tell us more about the charitable work of Coram Beanstalk?

At Coram Beanstalk, we recruit, train and support volunteers to provide one-to-one reading support in primary schools and early years settings. Once trained and placed in a school by Coram Beanstalk, our reading helpers support children aged 3-13 through weekly sessions. Over the course of one academic year, they enjoy books with the children and help them develop a deeper understanding of the story. 

Our volunteers encourage, motivate and support children in a way that helps them feel positive about their reading. Our reading helpers work with three children on a one-to-one basis twice a week for one academic year. The children they work with need support for a variety of reasons, but many won’t feel confident around books and would benefit from weekly sessions outside of the classroom with someone who can help ‘open the door’ to reading.

In addition to our volunteer programmes, we also provide training in schools to the parent helper community to maximise the impact they have in their sessions supporting children with reading. We also deliver peer-to-peer training as part of our Reading Leaders programme, which sees older children in secondary schools train to support younger children in the school with reading.

Our vision is to ensure that all children have the opportunity to become confident and able readers, and we know that the first step to achieving this is through encouraging a love of books at an early age.

In addition to your existing programs of charity work, will you be carrying out any additional campaigns this Christmas?

Each Christmas we highlight our ‘Give the gift of reading’ appeal, which is a really wonderful way of supporting the work we do. Just £5 can help us buy a brilliant book that our trained reading helpers can use during their one-to-one sessions with a child in a school. We rely on our fundraising efforts to help sustain the work we do and to allow us to grow and reach more children who need one-to-one help with reading. Anyone who wishes to support the work we do can donate online via our website.

“Fundraising is critical to our sustainability and enables us to continue our work”

Throughout the year, we encourage people to volunteer with us. More volunteers mean we can reach more children who need one-to-one reading support across the country. December is typically a quieter month for recruiting new reading helpers, so in January we launch our New Year campaign to encourage people to volunteer who may be looking to take on a new challenge for the year ahead.

In your opinion, just how important are donations and the work of volunteers for the charity sector?

Fundraising is critical to our sustainability and enables us to continue our work and increase the impact we have on children across the country. Without generosity and support from our donors, funders and the time given by our volunteers, so many children would not get the help they need to become confident readers.

We must continue our work if we are to help close the literacy gap and prevent children from falling behind their peers and risking their life chances.

What are the typical long-lasting impacts of the work done by volunteers?

As well as transforming the lives of children, the work our volunteers do can be life-changing for themselves.

Each year, we ask for feedback from our volunteers and in the last survey we carried out, the vast majority of volunteers (92%) agreed that being a reading helper with Coram Beanstalk made them feel valued, while 89% also say that it helped them stay mentally active.

Over two thirds of Coram Beanstalk reading helpers who provided feedback (70%) also said that it made them feel more a part of their local community.  

We know that volunteering can greatly enrich and improve people’s lives in a number of different ways. We see it all the way through the volunteer journey with Coram Beanstalk, from the training we provide through to placing reading helpers in early years and primary school settings. We are proud to be able to offer a truly life-changing experience for both reading helpers and the children they support.

Does voluntary work take on added importance in the festive season?

Our reading helpers give the gift of reading through the work they do throughout the year, but at Christmas this really does take on added meaning. Reading can open doors to new worlds for children to explore and can help them form their own opinions and ideas. All this helps empower children and sets them up for success. 

It is so incredibly important for children to have access to books. Many of the children we support may not have many books at home, or any at all in some circumstances. We want to ensure that all children get the opportunity to fall in love with books and that’s what our supporters can help make happen for so many children.    

Many charities will face increased demand for their services during the festive period and, as a sector, it’s such an important time to ensure those who need help can access those services”

Many of our volunteers love being in the schools around Christmas time, with many being invited to the Christmas productions or other celebrations. It is often a time for reflection, as the majority of volunteers will have been supporting new children since September, and it’s amazing how much progress will have been made in that time.

It’s also a time for us to say thank you to all our amazing reading helpers who are the lifeblood of our charity and change so many children’s lives.

Where can people go to find out more about charitable initiatives taking place in their local area?

There are so many charities who need the support of volunteers in the local communities. A great website where you can search a range of opportunities is Do-it.org. The local council may also advertise projects as well as the local newspaper or community magazine.

in the charity sector, what are some of the biggest issues that need to be tackled during the Christmas season?

Many charities will face increased demand for their services during the festive period and, as a sector, it’s such an important time to ensure those who need help can access those services. It can be particularly hard and stressful for families who can’t afford very much at Christmas.

By supporting a local charity, you can help give a gift that will last a lifetime.

How can volunteers help beanstalk with their current projects?

We are always taking on new volunteers across the country. Experience is not necessary because we provide the training required. We just need people who are passionate about sharing a love of reading and passing that on to children who need a bit of extra help and encouragement to feel positive around books.

We know it’s not always possible for people to volunteer the time needed to be a reading helper. But there are a number of other ways you can help support the work we do, either by fundraising for us or telling your place of work about how they can get involved as a corporate partner.

You can find out about volunteering for us or support our work via our website.

Christmas Charity Work and Events at McCarthy Stone

We’ve loved working with Coram Beanstalk throughout 2019 and so far, have raised over £105,000 for the charity across our business. You too can help us support Coram Beanstalk by donating whatever you can. During the festive season we’ll be doing more charitable things in our retirement developments, like making donations to charities and creating food parcels.

Over Christmas, our developments will also be hosting a number of Christmas events to help residents get into the festive spirit. So, make sure you know what’s happening at your development, so you don’t miss out on the fun.