Updated: May 6
Guest blog written by Country Days patron, Brian Woodrow.
A few years ago a national survey by Just Giving, the fund-raising site, found that more people per head of population in Bedford made donations to charity through the site than any other town in the United Kingdom. This confirmed for me the fact that Bedford is an amazingly generous and community spirited town, not just in terms of cash but also in terms of the amount of time given by people in voluntary activities.
This spirit has been fully in evidence during the past difficult year with the local hospital charity providing massive support for our hard pressed front-line NHS workers with regular supplies of comforts such as cakes, fruit and bottled water; the manufacture of hundreds of items of PPE by an army of over 100 sewing ladies; the provision by volunteers of a huge amount of stores for the hard-pressed local food bank ; and the amazing drive, led by Susan Lousada, the High Sheriff of Bedfordshire, to provide refurbished devices for schoolchildren unable to access learning because of the problem of ‘digital poverty’. Over 1800 devices were delivered during her year of office to schools in Bedfordshire. It is an on-going campaign and so essential to helping to mitigate the learning divide between the less affluent and those with greater resources.
A major downside of the current lockdown for the voluntary sector has been the closure of all the retail charity outlets, which have been essential revenue sources for so many organisations. This has proved critical for places like hospices. Bedford’s generous spirit was again in evidence when a local charitable trust decided to liquidate assets and make donations of £250,000 to both St Johns Hospice Moggerhangar and the Keech Hospice in Luton.
What seems to happen in Bedford is that a group of people identify a problem in the community and then get on and create a charity/voluntary organisation that can do something to help those in need. There are countless , mostly small, charities doing wonderful work. Some examples are the Tibbs Dementia Foundation, helping dementia sufferers to live with their condition; A4S providing support and outdoor activity for children excluded from school; the Rothsay Education Centre providing learning interests for those of more mature years; and ,of course, Country Days providing the chance for children, mostly from deprived backgrounds, to learn something about the world of nature whilst out in the open air. Having worked with their mother, Ann Hadfield, for many years I was delighted, when approached by her daughters Helen and Esme, to do what I could to get Country Days off the ground. With nature and the environment being at the forefront of so many people’s thoughts Ann’s foresight in conceiving the idea of creating this organisation was brilliant .
Bedford is an extraordinarily diverse town where so much of the community’s cohesion is provided by the voluntary sector.