The Hub – Changing Lives, Changing Futures

150870_10151507765426195_926473052_nBangkok sees a steady stream of travelers drawn in by its legendary hedonistic pleasures, ancient temples and chockablock markets. There are, of course, daily glimpses into Bangkok’s less-glamorous side; the beggar asleep in the doorway, the used needle in the kerb, the child begging. For too many, this is merely an annoyance, another hassle to wave away. And, for too many, Bangkok is a place to flee to, escaping rural poverty, chasing impossible dreams, running from abusive homes or hiding from personal tragedies. The children come from all corners of Thailand and scrape by on the streets.

It is a merciless existence. Children, as young as five, sleep in makeshift shelters as the trains rumble by. They find food however they can, but too often not often enough. Many find there are no role models, no access to education, and no chance to escape. Others fall prey to drugs and alcohol abuse, crime and prostitution. Children are trafficked, enduring unimaginable horrors. And others find The Hub.


An incentive of Thai and Australian charities, The Hub provides a safe and welcoming environment for Bangkok’s street and underprivileged children. Here the children receive more than the welcome “grub and scrub,” they receive a chance at a new life. Here, their most basic necessities are met with a smile: a safe place to sleep, a soothing shower, a warm meal and clean clothes. Life skills programmes, assistance with education and enrichment opportunities keep the centre filled with the sounds of happy children. From the streets of Bangkok, broken families and stolen childhood, comes a new chosen family. A place to grow, love and nurture.

The Hub’s life skills programmes empower children to take control of their health and safety. From sexual health awareness to road safety, the Hub’s children learn, day by day, a healthy and enjoyable way to develop as individuals. They are exposed to more dangers than any child should be subjected, and they meet these challenges with an unnerving grace, carefully stored wisdom and a heartbreakingly gap-toothed smile.  Doctors visit, and hairdressers come, and the therapists guide, all working together to return these children to the happiness and security they deserve. Recognizing education as a priority in poverty alleviation, The Hub provides the encouragement to return to school, monetary assistance needed and tutoring to succeed. For those uninterested in education, vocational training is provided, giving the teenage participants a chance of economic security.

IMG_8843The Hub recognizes the right and need of every child to express themselves creatively.  Afternoon comes and the centre is turned into a whirl of activity. Graceful Thai dancers lean over the stairwell to the B-boys turning impossible stunts below. Local school children visit and conduct an art workshop. The place is decorated with the children’s artwork, books cover the walls and computers offer a glimpse into the wider world. The running club provides a healthy outlet for the children, who burn off seemingly impossible amounts of energy after a night sleeping rough. Guest teachers come, offering everything from circus to music. The children are alive with it. The dedication displayed by the dancers is awe-inspiring. Every day, without fail, they come and practice for hours, sweat pouring off them in the steamy Bangkok heat. Some nights they head to a nearby park, transforming the street into a stage. The camaraderie is heart-warming; as older children become the role models they never had for their younger friends.  Click here to see the kids in action!

IMG_8708The Hub provides its children more than a safe haven; it offers them a new chance at life. It provides the children the vital opportunity to achieve academically, professionally and personally. It is a lifeline that helps them to escape a life of exploitation and fear, while offering them the support to thrive and grow.  To say The Hub is a miracle is not a lapse into hyperbole. Everyday, The Hub is giving children the most precious gift: the fortune to be a child today and the future of a confident, able adult.

To learn more about The Hub, enquire about volunteer opportunities or to donate, please visit their website at


Zero Kids and Counting…

What do you think of when you think of a 30 year old woman?  Do you envision a young, sexy Cheryl Cole mantra, free, single and in 6 inch heels?  Or married, mortgage a couple of kids?  The truth is there is a very confusing pattern of where you should be at age 30.  When I was 15 and I dutifully filled out my end of year book.  I assumed that at age 30 I would be working in London (as that’s where all the magic happened) with my own house and 4 kids!  I also thought that age 30 was really old and I would be baking, knitting and wearing tweed.  Little did I know that man upstairs had other things in store for me, such as a rental agreement and at 30 something, no kids to speak of.   A little bit of baking here and there but have used Cosmopolitans and luxury holidays as a replacement for knitting and children.


Many of my girlfriends are choosing not to have children yet as either they want to concentrate on their careers as one reason.  The other is they quite frankly like having their own things not covered in peanut butter and jam.  Also to be able to leave the house to go for a glass of wine at 8pm on a Wednesday.  To be able to lie in on a weekend and spend money on shiny handbags.

I believe that women are having children slightly later in life, not just for their careers but because they want to enjoy nice things, nice holidays and save up for Jimmy Choos instead of new buggies.  The majority of my girlfriends have given themselves a very loose time frame for having children.  The pressures aren’t the same as they used to be when our mothers had us.  The only thing that can push some women into getting pregnant is the fear of her eggs drying up and the choice being taken away from her.

pic-baby-feetAccording to medical science if you are over 29 and are trying to conceive or are pregnant then you are considered an ‘old mother’.  Imagine that; not even hit the next decade of life and your eggs are starting to die on you.  Once you hit 35 your chance are cut in half of conceiving and you can probably spend the next 5 years panicking about that and having as much IVF treatment as ‘Octomom’.

I overheard a girl at work recently who said she is 24 and she is looking into fertility treatment as she was producing too many eggs.  This is a girl who is 24 (and for starters telling the whole break out area about her womb activities) but is actively trying to get pregnant.  I remember being 24 and wondering where my next dress and heels were coming from or if I was going to a club that weekend.  Certainly not fertility treatment and the rate that my eggs are being produced.

Now that makes me feel like an old mother.

Photography Studio Launches a Snappy Appeal

A photography studio in Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, spent last weekend clicking away to raise money so that families can stay close by to their child when they are being treated in hospital – and has already raised a brilliant £110.

Suffolk based Lighthouse Studios kick started their fundraising efforts recently to support The Sick Children’s Trust’s Appeal to raise money to build a new ‘Home from Home’ at the Rosie hospital in Cambridge.

The studio is offering to donate £25 from each family photography session booked between now and when the new house opens to the charity’s “Buy a Brick” campaign, helping the charity to edge ever closer to its target of opening its eighth ‘Home from Home’ in September 2012.

Colleen Howe, from Lighthouse Studio said: “I wanted to support the charity as I know how wonderful they were to my friend Holly when her daughter, Evie, was rushed into Addenbrooke’s Hospital with respiratory failure in 2010. Holly and her partner, Kevin Rumbelow, stayed at the charity’s Acorn House for more than eight days and they always told me how much of a difference just having a place where they could stay close by to Evie made to them during this stressful time.

“The launch party was a wonderful family event and we had lots of people stop by to support the charity. Best of all though was the fact that little Evie could join us and she is now running around like a normal toddler.”

The Sick Children’s Trust’s new ‘Home from Home’ is [art of Cambridge University Hospitals extension of the Rosie Hospital and the will support the parents of the most vulnerable babies from across the East of England and occasionally beyond. It will provide a comfortable, calming facility for families. With eight en-suite bedrooms, a communal living area and cooking and laundry facilities, helping more than 250 families every year.

Lydia Solomon, Community Fundraiser for The Sick Children’s Trust added: “This is a great start to the studio’s appeal and it’s wonderful to see Holly and her family get back to a sense of normality after everything they have been through. We are really grateful to the Lighthouse Studio for supporting our appeal. We still have to raise more than £240,000 so appreciate all the help we can get.”

Family shoots are offered at the Lighthouse Studio, Thurston, Bury St.Edmunds or on location at a venue chosen by the family. Each photo shoot costs just £40 for which the family will get a 6×4 photograph of their favourite image and the Lighthouse Studio will donate £25 towards the Rosie Hospital “Buy a Brick” campaign.

For more information or to attend the launch party: Please contact Sarah Wallace on 020 7931 8695 or email

Image reproduced from

Abseil Dare Devils Wanted for Historic Fundraiser

Action for Children is on the look out for dare devils in Cambridge to make history on Saturday 24 September, and abseil down Great St. Mary’s Church to raise cash for vulnerable children, young people and families.

The event is the first time a fundraising abseil has been held at the church in its 600 year history and will see thrill seekers abseil 114 foot down the church tower. To take part it will cost just £20 with entrants asked to raise a further £100 in sponsorship money.

The abseil will take place from 10am to 4pm and no previous experience is required as all entrants will receive full training on the day.

Laura Hanratta, Action for Children Area Fundraiser, said: “This is the first time anyone’s been given permission to hold an event like this at Great St. Mary’s Church and we urge thrill seekers to sign up. It’s a hugely famous landmark that I know is familiar to locals so we’re delighted to offer them the chance to abseil down it! It’ll be an amazing achievement and we just hope participants get chance to enjoy the view!”

To register for a place or for further information please contact Laura Hanratta on on 01284 755953 / 07921 491550 or

Stevenage Family’s Son’s Plight Eased by Local Charity Support

Our son Travis was born at 24 weeks old in our local hospital in Luton and Dunstable.  A few weeks after the birth though it became apparent to the doctors that something wasn’t right and he was in severe pain in his stomach.

At only two and a half weeks old the doctors put him on medication to try and treat him but  they soon realised that this wasn’t working as effectively as they had hoped, so he was transferred more than 30 miles away from our home in Stevenage to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

I went with him in the ambulance whilst my partner Roger followed by car.

When we arrived at the ward, Travis was settled in and the doctor told us that they wanted to monitor him before making a decision on whether or not to proceed with the surgery.

Initially I was allowed to stay on the ward for a few days but I was told that if a child was brought in from further away than us or in a more critical condition we would be moved.  Luckily we were able to stay for three days, so this answered the initial stress of the question of where we going to sleep that night.

After three nights we had to make the heart wrenching decision to leave Travis and go home. As we didn’t know about The Sick Children’s Trust and Acorn House we felt we had no option but to make the 60 mile round trip every day for the next 12 days. The stress of doing this was immense, but we had three other children to care for and consider.

In the middle of December the doctors told us that the medication still didn’t appear to be working, and one month after he was born the decision was made for Travis to undergo surgery.

The hospital found me accommodation for one night so that I could be there when Travis woke up but then we had to go back to the round trip to home every day for the next three months.

I can’t even begin to tell you the gut wrenching feeling of being torn between your newborn baby who you desperately want to be there for, and your younger children who wonder where mummy and daddy are going each day.

After his surgery Travis was moved to a ward where I was allowed to sleep by his side and it was here that we learned about The Sick Children’s Trust’s Acorn House.  We decided to try for a room so that my partner could stay here and bring over our other children who were just 18, 14 and two.  We were worried about the effect it would have on Warren, our two year old in particular, as he was so young.

Having to cope with a toddler in this type of situation was so stressful. Luckily with my eldest being 18, she looked after Holly during the week and then Holly and Danielle would come join us at Acorn House at the weekend, but Warren was different.  I couldn’t explain to him what was going on and he didn’t like being on the wards and we didn’t really want to put him through that, and let him see his little brother in that environment.

Acorn House was a life saver for us.  Warren loved spending time in the playroom and also in the garden.  It was a relief to me to be able to cook him healthy meals here too, and at the weekend when the girls would visit we could all spend time together as a family.

Travis was too sick to come to the house at first and I was only allowed one hour breaks with him away from the ward, but even if it only meant spending 20 minutes in the house it was worth it.  To have Warren engrossed in a DVD whilst I fed Travis gave me the sense of normality I was craving so badly.

I also used the rooms to express milk; private space was great. And the phones in the room meant that I could contact the ward to let them know that I was on my way over with food. The washing facilities were also a necessity for us.  Travis’s condition meant that he had a short gut and couldn’t digest food properly so he used to leak out onto his clothes.  Initially, one of the main reasons we had to drive back and forth from home each day was to do the washing but with the facilities at Acorn House it meant we didn’t have to worry about this and every precious moment could be spent with our children. 

Travis is home now and exceeding all expectations. When you have a sick child, as well as all the family and emotional issues you go through, you don’t really think about the practical side of things such as the cooking and cleaning, not to mention finances. Having four children meant I needed space for my children and Acorn House made our life so much easier.  I just wish we had known about it sooner. 

Angela Hamilton, Travis’s mum

Children’s Charity Wants Local Businesses to Sleep Rough for Annual Fundraiser

Action for Children is calling on local business in Cambridge to help raise money to tackle youth homelessness by signing up for this year’s Byte Night.

The event takes place on Friday 7 October and sees members of the business community spending a night sleeping outdoors atCambridge Science Park to raise money for the children’s charity.

Last year was the first Byte Night to be held in Cambridge and saw over 60 sleepers from local top businesses including Citrix, Cambridge Consultants and EACS raise £45,000.

Now in its 13th year, Byte Night is Action for Children’s largest fundraiser and has raised over £3 million for the children’s charity. Last year’s sleep out saw 600 participants take part in locations including London, Manchester, Cambridge, Edinburgh andThames Valley.

Kirstin Broome, fundraising manager at Action for Children, said: “Since its inception 13 years ago, Byte Night has gone from strength to strength. The event has allowed us to continue to provide safe and secure accommodation to vulnerable youngsters at risk of homelessness. The support from the Cambridge area is second to none.”

The millions of pounds raised so far have helped Action for Children support some of the UK’s most neglected  and vulnerable youngsters ­– providing them with secure accommodation, education and training, and ending the cycle of deprivation that so many get trapped in.

If you would like more information about Byte Night, please contact Fiona Macleod on 020 3124 0614 or email:

You can also visit the website at, follow it on Twitter or join the Facebook group.

Children’s Charity Awarded Cambridgeshire Short Breaks Contract

Children’s charity Action for Children will be providing residential short breaks for children and young people with disabilities in Cambridgeshire

The charity, which provides similar short break services across the UK, will be delivering the new service for Cambridgeshire County Council, in partnership with Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust.

It will operate from two existing short break homes at Havilland Way in Cambridge and Woodland Lodge in Huntingdon

The new service will begin in October 2011 and provide residential short breaks for a range of children and young people including those with complex health needs.

Anne Waterman, Action for Children, Group Manager, said: “We’re delighted that Action for Children has been awarded the tender to provide an essential short breaks service in Cambridgeshire. It’s testament to the organisation’s hard work and our proven track record of success at delivering successful short breaks services across the UK.”

“It is now our priority to work alongside NHS Cambridgeshire and Cambridgeshire County Council to ensure a smooth transition for all staff and families into the new service.”

Short breaks services give disabled children and young people the opportunity to have fun, learn and gain independence and provide families with support and a much needed break from their 24-hour caring roles.

For more information on Action for Children and its short break services please visit their website:


Hundreds Sign Up for Family Fun Day at Grafham Water Centre

Over 450 people will be making a splash at Grafham Water Centre, on Saturday 6 August, for a special family day for local disabled children and their families.
The family fun day, which runs from 10:30am to 4:30pm, will give disabled children the chance to make use of new facilities at Grafham Water Centre which enable wheelchair users to be hoisted into canoes, specially equipped powerboats, sailing dinghies and slings to experience the thrill of a climbing wall.
The free event has been arranged by Cambridgeshire County Council and Action for Children’s Inclusion Project Cambridgeshire, to showcase the opportunities and activities available to families with disabled children in Cambridgeshire.
On the day there will also be archery, specialist tandem bikes to try out, a barbecue lunch and hot chocolate and marshmallows by the campfire.
Linda Simmons, Project Manager at Action for Children’s Inclusion Project Cambridgeshire, said: “The sign-up for this event has been incredible and highlights the support and need to provide accessible activities that offer disabled children and families the same opportunities as any other children and young people.
“It promises to be an action-packed day and will be the first time many of the children and families attending will have had chance to take part in anything like this.”
Cllr David Brown, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Children & Young People added: “The Council’s Aiming High project substantially funded improvement works at Grafham Water Centre, including installation of specialist changing and washing facilities, overhead tracking in a dormitory, through to a fully equipped bathroom enabling disabled children and young people to experience not only daytime, but overnight inclusive events.
“Action for Children’s Family Day will showcase this excellent centre and give disabled children and their families an opportunity to have a go at something new. Over the past 18 months Grafham Water Centre has substantially increased its level of support to disabled children.”
Action for Children’s Inclusion Project Cambridgeshire, was opened in April, 2010, and supports disabled children and young people, aged between 0 and 19, in accessing mainstream activities.
To contact the Inclusion Project Cambridgeshire contact Linda Simmons or Graham Tuffrey by phone on 01480 451775 or by e-mail at  or

East End Celebrity Goes Fishing for Funds

The second annual Big Fish event looks set to be a big catch in raising money for local charity, The Sick Children’s Trust, with special guest actor Scott Maslen bringing star quality to the day.

Held at Great Linford Lakes in Buckinghamshire on September 3, the event is being organised by Dominic Morgan as a thank you to the charity that helped his family through one of the worst times of his life.

His daughter, Jodi, from Colchester, died last year after an 18-month battle against aplastic anaemia, a condition where bone marrow does not produce sufficient new cells to replenish blood cells.  The Sick Children’s Trust provided free accommodation for the family at its Acorn House in Cambridge, during the final weeks of Jodi’s life.

Dominic said: “We are so grateful for the support The Sick Children’s Trust has given us that we wanted to give something back. Last year we raised in excess of £1,000 for the charity and we hope to double that this year as the event continues to grow in size and stature within the fishing community. We and also to be able to donate several laptops and Nintendo DSI’s to Addenbrooke’s Hospital’s children’s wards.

“We are particularly grateful to David and Nicola Marle, who own Great Linford Lakes, for donating the venue free of charge.  Fishing novices and experts alike should come down for what promises to be a fantastic family day out with so much to see and do and even get to meet some of the biggest angling stars.”

The event kicks off with a 48 hour carp fishing tournament for singles and pairs, followed by the family fishing show where children can try their hand at the free fishing camp with experts. The first place anglers will walk away with more than £2,500 of top carp fishing gear, a fishing holiday abroad and a money-can’t-buy session with a top celebrity fisherman. All tournament anglers will also be treated to a free hog roast.

Scott added: “As a keen angler I am more than happy to come along and support what promises to be a fantastic event. I’ll be doing a bit of mingling and then will be on stage to conduct the prize giving ceremony at around 4:30pm.”

Lydia Solomon, community fundraiser for The Sick Children’s Trust added: “We are thankful for Dominic for putting on such a wonderful event again and I’m sure it’ll surpass last year and raise lots of much needed funds for our charity.  We encourage anyone in the area to come along and support this fabulous event!”

For details of the event please go to

For more information please contact: Sarah Wallace on 020 7931 8695 or email

Norwich Family’s Daughter’s Plight Eased by Local Charity Support

This week, City Connect reports on a family from Norwich who was supported by the Sick Children’s Trust.

One afternoon last summer, our 15 year old daughter Jade complained of feeling unwell. Over the following days her face began to swell up and she developed a pain in her leg so I took her to our local doctors in Norwich where they immediately did blood tests.  When the tests came back later that day they showed signs of leukaemia so we were blue-lighted in an ambulance to Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, an hour and a away from our home.

My husband, Kevin, had to stay at home initially as we have two dependent parents to look after and needed to organise care for them, but I remained by Jade’s side until we arrived at the hospital. It was there on the ward that I learnt about The Sick Children’s Trust and the wonderful work Acorn House does.

We initially stayed at the house for 11 weeks whilst Jade was being treated for her illness before being moved to Bristol Children’s Hospital so she could undergo her bone marrow transplant.

When I arrived with Jade on the first day I just had the clothes on my back and not much else so being at the house and having access to the washing facilities and all the other amenities meant I didn’t have to worry about the little things like where I would wash my clothes or eat that night.  All my energy could be focused on Jade and her getting better.

During this time Jade would often join us at the house and sit outside in the sunshine. It must have been a lot for her to take in, going from a normal healthy girl overnight to having to battle this awful disease, and I think that moments like this away from the ward helped her feel normal and behave like an average teenager.

Also, when Jade was undergoing chemotherapy she’d crave different foods which sometimes the facilities at the hospital couldn’t cater for, so whether it was chicken dippers or ice cream, it was nice to know I could pop down to the local shop and cook her favourite foods over at Acorn House.  The joy we got from small things like this can’t be put into words.

Jade also took great comfort knowing that we were okay.  She’d often worry about me and ask where I was sleeping at night so having the space at Acorn House really reassured her that mum and dad were coping fine.  Also for me, having to sleep by the bedside really drained my energy and without a full night sleep it would have been hard to face the day ahead.  Staying at Acorn House meant I woke rested and could face the day fresh.

In December 2010, after Jade’s transplant, we came back to Addenbrooke’s Hospital as it was renowned for its specialist care for Leukemia patients. We were then transferred back here under the watchful eye of hospital staff whilst she recovered and fortunately we were lucky enough to once more receive a room at Acorn House.

During this time there were lots of ups and downs as Jade battled through recovery, but thanks to Acorn House I could be by Jade’s side day and night. My husband would join us on the weekend as it was too far for him to travel and work every day, but even this meant we could have special family time away from the wards together. To help Jade’s recovery she would often come over to the house and hang out with me and her dad.  We’d sit on the big, comfy sofas and watch DVDs and when friends would visit her, it’s so much nicer to be able to bring them to Acorn House than having to sit around Jade’s hospital bed.

Jade even came over and stayed the night at the house once or twice and I think this helped her recovery no end.  Being away from the beeps and sounds of the ward in a room with her parents was the next best thing to being at home and gave her a real boost whenever she visited.

Being surrounded by families who are going through the same situation also helped me deal with the stress and I’ve made some great friends out of my time at the house – a positive out of a truly awful situation. There is one family in particular we speak to about twice a week, just to get updates and see how each other are doing.

The ward had to call me on a few occasions as Jade wanted her mum, and the relief that I could just put on my clothes and pop across the road to reassure her was immense.  If I had had to travel all the way from Norwich to do that, I don’t think I would have been able to cope.

It’s been eight months now since Jade underwent her transplant and every day she is getting stronger.  They say it takes 18 months until you are fully recovered so we do have a long road ahead but for now I am just happy that she is getting her strength back and she is at home with us.

We still have to visit Addenbrooke’s Hospital every two weeks as part of her post operative check ups and often call in on the house.  It’s funny to think that even though we went through one of the worst times of our life here, we have such fond memories of our time spent at The Sick Children’s Trust. We spent 94 days there in total and I’ll always remember the support we received and be grateful for that.

Innovative Disability Project Huntingdon

An innovative disability project in Huntingdon is holding a volunteer day on, Saturday 2 July, to encourage people to support and help make a huge difference to a disabled child’s life. The Inclusion Project Cambridgeshire, which is ran by leading charity Action for Children, is holding the event, from 10:30am to 3:30pm, at it’s offices in Saxongate, Bradbury Place, Huntingdon. The project, which opened in April, 2010, supports disabled children and young people, aged between 0 and 19, in accessing mainstream activities. If a disabled child or young person wants to be involved in an activity such as Brownies, Cubs, a sports club or an activity such as drumming, the project provides support to make this possible. Each child receives one-to-one support and the project helps them to make a successful transition into their chosen activity by working alongside the club and its members. The volunteer fair will offer people the opportunity to chat with staff and get any information they need on the Inclusion Project’s work.

The project is looking for:

  • Volunteers to support disabled children and young people at their chosen mainstream activity.
  • Volunteers to help research clubs and activities in Cambridgeshire.
  • Volunteers with a disability to help deliver training about disability issues.

Anne, whose son was given the opportunity to attend swimming clubs following Inclusion Project Cambridgeshire’s supports said: ”The Inclusion Project has had a huge impact on my son’s life and has provided him with opportunities that were never possible before. To be part of a swimming club and around other children helped him to make friends, get exercise and put a massive smile on his face. It’s a hobby which I can see him doing for the rest of his life now.”

Linda Simmons, Project Manager at the Inclusion Project Cambridgeshire, said: “We urge anyone interested in helping out at our project to come down to the fair and meet and chat with our staff. The project helps disabled children have the same opportunities as other children and we need your help to continue the amazing progress we have made.  No previous experience is required and volunteers can offer as much time as they are able.

“It’s the prefect opportunity to find out about the project and the work we do in helping to support children with disabilities. Volunteering can have such a positive impact on a child’s life and there are so many different ways that people can help.”

The full address for the Volunteer Day is Inclusion Project Cambridgeshire, Saxongate, Bradbury Place, Huntingdon, PE29 3RR.

For more information on the volunteer day or the please contact Linda Simmons or Graham Tuffrey on 01480 451775 or /

Please click here for the charity page of City Connect.