Newsletter 127 - May 2020

A message from our President 

Another week of Covid confinement and perhaps against any preconceived ideas about Rotary during a time of lockdown, Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club has again had a full, fun and fruitful time. Our ‘breakfast’ meetings continue to be held on Zoom at 8.00 am and once again we had a bigger turnout than our customary in-the-flesh average with 47 people logging in. Continuing refinements of the use of Zoom have improved the enjoyment with a successful feature being the allocation of people in small numbers to six breakout rooms as they sign in for 20 minutes of conversation before the main meeting starts. Our presenters all seem fully at ease with the online practicalities and people have all got used to the little disciplines of effective participation in questions, comments and answers.  Guests are easier to invite and do so in large numbers from all around the country and as far away as Nepal and Prague. In short, there are definite and significant silver linings in being forced to meet in cyberspace. Committees have continued their work and have shown the flexibility to rapidly adjust their plans to entirely changed the possibilities of raising funds and directing them wisely. Social events have continued with a successful on-line quiz and other enticing fun already scheduled.  Who would have thought that our Rotary minds would be so opened to new and fruitful avenues not just for now, but to definitely explore for the longer term?

 The club has fully embraced the plan to divert money that would have bought our breakfasts at Bambalan to alleviate local problems caused or exacerbated by Covid19. During April, this generated £3000 and the club decided to use this to support Youth Moves who do wonderful work with disadvantaged families in South Bristol and to fund two food banks in the North and East of the city. The proposal to continue with this reallocation of monies in May has received enthusiastic support.

 It is really good to see Rotary rising to unexpected challenges. At Bristol Breakfast, our meetings are open to all guests and our minds are open to further innovation in the months to come.


 Bridge Learning Campus and Rotary Club of Bristol Breakfast

The Rotary Club of Bristol Breakfast is very proud to be associated with the Bridge Learning Campus (BLC).  BLC is a rather unique place, providing education and learning for children coming for their very first experience of formal learning from nursery provision up to the age of 16 years when students leave having taken a full range of GCSEs. This is what is called an All-through School’ and the BLC was the first of its kind in Bristol, and one of the first in the UK.

The school’s ethos is to provide children with an inspirational educational experience that will equip them with the necessary skills, knowledge, and understanding to make the best possible start in life. It is focussed on providing all pupils with a breadth of opportunities for their future – whether they is choose to go to university, or to pursue a career of their choice.

Equally important, the school helps children and young people to understand a world that is rapidly changing and one which will require them to be adaptable and flexible. It fosters resilience and supports children to retain a sense of place and to appreciate their own social responsibilities as a citizen.

Going to school is not just about what happens in a classroom but is also about the all-round experiences and opportunities that a school can provide. At BLC, there are many opportunities for children to collaborate together - through Houses, in their learning, and via clubs and societies. For the past few years the school has been home to Bristol Bears Rugby Academy, and also shares the site with New Fosseway Special School and the City of Bristol Gymnastics Centre. The school is a licensed centre for the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme and for the last four years, has had more students completing the award at both Bronze and Silver level than any other state school in Bristol.  

The coronavirus and social distancing measures have meant that all schools closed down to the majority of pupils from mid-March. However, for very good reasons, provision has continued for children of keyworkers and vulnerable children. The necessity for this provision, is a devastating reminder that sometimes school is the only safe place that some children have:  the only place they are safe from abuse; the only place they get proper meals. It is a reminder that for some school holidays brings misery. Many children come from very disadvantaged backgrounds – and for them their school lunch was the only meal they would have a day. When lockdown started, people were saying ‘we need to keep the kids at home; we need to keep them safe’. But we cannot forget that for some home is not easy, and in some cases, it is not safe. By schools remaining open, there continues to be a safe space in the locality for these children.

Unfortunately, however, no one is compelled to attend, and it remains deeply concerning that the reported number of vulnerable pupils in school nationally, is very low. The Children’s Commissioner has warned that vulnerable children are being hidden from sight during the coronavirus (Covid-19) lockdown. She says measures implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus mean youngsters have been cut off from sources of support, such as teachers and health visitors.

Just think of the anxiety Covid 19 has brought to those children suffering mental health problems. There are over 100,000 young carers in England but only 35,000 known to Local Authorities. There are children with SEND, special educational needs and the lockdown puts extra pressure on their parents especially if they are unsupported. Then there are those who are at risk or suffering harm and perhaps already living in dangerous situations experiencing abuse, neglect or other harm. We know that many children will not disclose abuse until they are adults, if indeed they ever do, so our knowledge of how many children face abuse in their homes will always be an underestimate.

We know from reports last year that 830,000 children in England live in homes where domestic abuse had taken place in the previous year. Criminality does not stop although the initial signs are that lockdown requirements have led to a drop-off in gang-related activity, there is a real risk that gangs will be finding new ways to operate and exploit children which we do not yet know about. Many of the early warning systems – such as schools noticing changes in children’s behaviour – are now closed. Over 10,000 children known to children’s services were identified as being in gangs.

Some 78,000 children in care may also be facing some additional difficulties – for many, face to face contact with their families will not be able to go ahead. Many of these children will have experienced trauma, yet during this time access to therapeutic support will be much more difficult. Many families will be finding the rules around staying at home and homeschooling their children a challenge. But for those who are living in overcrowded conditions, finding space for children to learn and play will be far harder.

So much for the statistics which do not make happy reading, yet this is the reality for some of the children and young people in our schools especially in the most deprived wards of Bristol where we know that 25% of children live below the poverty line. We live in a divided city of inequalities in health, finance, and opportunity.

One wonders what reality is like in Hartcliffe for the many children living in flats with no garden and intermittent internet, lockdown is a particularly challenging time. Ingrid Skeels from the charity, Room 13 in Hartcliffe puts it into perspective: “Whilst we’re all in the same storm, so to speak, we are not all in the same boat.” Recognising the struggles families are facing while schools are closed, a grassroots fundraising campaign was launched to pay for special art packs to be distributed across the neighbourhood, to help foster creativity and give children something positive to do during the lockdown.

Many people’s financial situation is even harder than before which makes lockdown much more difficult, for parents as well as children. Art packs have been delivered by the charity to 250 households thanks to their fundraising efforts.

 On top of coping with lockdown, young people in the area have lost the use of youth centres and places like Room 13 just when they need it most. Room 13 is an independent art space in the grounds of Hareclive E-Act Academy Primary, the project is run by children for children and encourages creativity, enterprise, and independent thinking. Thousands of households across Bristol are in receipt of free school meals, including around 70 percent of families at Hartcliffe schools, and the art packs are distributed along with supply hampers, providing a “lifeline” for many young people, who have been able to unleash their creativity and find inventive ways of coping with being indoors.


To support the fundraising campaign, visit:Room 13 Art Project 


The Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club involvement with BLC started some years ago and we formed a relationship by taking children from initially Teyfant School (now part of BLC) on Kids Out for a fun day and picnic at Cattle Country. Starting in a small way this increased over a number of years to invite more schools including BLC, New Fosseway and Kingsweston Special School. Just over 12 months ago the Club’s Community Committee proposed that we should offer help in providing breakfasts for children at BLC. Alana and Debbie Rogan provided commercial toasters and each school day 150 students can eat breakfast before starting the school day. Research has shown that eating a regular breakfast has increased academic performance. We have also supported the Harry Potter literacy project- including a trip to Harry Potter World to reward successful students on an accelerated reading programme (£750).

With the lockdown and closure of schools our Rotary Club donated £1000 to the school to help. In reply to thank the club, Liz Hackling, Associate Head of BLC has provided an update regarding the gift of £1000. She says that adjusting to life in lockdown. that whilst the likes of google hangouts and zoom is no match for full social contact, they do at least provide the school with a way of seeing friends and colleagues, and, if they are anything like the weekly staff briefing a wealth of comedy clips to be used in the future. So, school life continues but in a very different way.

Liz and her colleagues are very thankful to RCBB for the backing and support to BLC. She says that the generosity with financial and professional support has had, and continues to have, a real impact on students and their families.

Covid-19 has presented challenges for everyone at BLC and sadly in Liz’s role as safeguarding lead it has truly highlighted the inequalities within the community, a gap that will only get wider as more parents are furloughed or worse still.

Liz reports on how the gift has supported BLC in caring for their children.

The first key challenge has been to support with the basic necessity of food. For vulnerable children (those open to social care)and children of key workers that attend school, the termly funding Rotary has given for the breakfast club, has allowed them to keep running breakfast (albeit on a far smaller scale), ensuring that they are ready to engage with learning in their socially distanced classrooms.

For the majority, that don’t meet this criterion, some of your gift has been used to provide basic food parcels of non-perishables.  These have been gratefully received by their most needy and have given Liz the opportunity to check in with often hard to reach families in a positive and non-threating way.

The second challenge is to maintain learning for our students that are not on site. Whilst it was easy to create lessons and electronic content for google classroom, again it showed the disparity, not just in devices and internet access but also literacy, IT, or otherwise.

The new government initiative has gone some way to addressing this for students that are in certain categories.  However, it did not take into account students (and in some cases parents) that have special educational needs. Despite the best attempts from the BLC team to make our online learning as accessible as possible, there are still a high percentage of children who continue to struggle to access these platforms.   

With this in mind they used another part of the gift to fund learning packs for vulnerable students. The first round was posted/hand-delivered last week and a second-round will be going when the specialist items needed by students arrive. 

Below are a few sound bites from staff that work closely with these groups.

‘Without the support from the Rotary Club - and the provision of packs for these groups - our children would continue to be struggling.’ 

Sarah Cheshire Associate Deputy

‘The packs will mean they have the right resources and will now have that feeling of success. They will feel part of the learning community again - and have that sense of pride that they have been missing out on in the last few weeks.’  

C Fourie Accelerated Catch Up Coordinator

‘This ensures that they keep up-to-date with their peers and don't fall behind with their learning. It ensures that they remain part of the team! It also means that we, their teachers, can have more purposeful conversations with parents to support their learning at home.

N Adams Diamond class teacher

 Liz says “With the risk of sounding repetitive, I cannot thank you enough for this support; it really does enable us to do our work and keep our learners in a routine of learning, which is crucial in terms of their academia and more importantly their wellbeing. You have helped us to ensure our children and families have some level of normality at this unsettling time.  Please take care and we look forward to seeing you in hopefully the not too (socially) distant future”. 




Bristol Breakfast Rotary Club plays its part during the Coronavirus Pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads uncertainty and hardship around the world, Rotary members and participants are innovating, caring for those affected, and showing that even at a distance, there are ways to help.

As people of action, Rotary members are engaged in their communities — gathering for projects and offering help to those in need. But in many areas, life is changing drastically. Health experts are urging people to maintain distance from others or even isolate themselves in order to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus.  Fighting disease is one of Rotary International's main causes, so members already support efforts to promote proper handwashing techniques, teach people other ways to stay healthy, and supply training and vital medical equipment to health care providers. Locally Bristol Breakfast Club members have agreed to contribute the monies they spend on breakfast each week to help those in our city who are less fortunate.

You will see from our main story we have made a contribution of £1000 to the Bridge Learning Campus. This week we agreed to donate £2000 to Youth Moves to help vulnerable and underprivileged children across south Bristol and £1000 divided between two Food banks one in North Bristol and one in East Bristol. 


RIGBI togetherTalks

Last week, Rotary International launched togetherTalks -  A weekly series of global conversation events, connecting people from across the globe to a range of leading speakers from the worlds of business, volunteering, the charity sector and more.

The talks will:

After the first wave of tickets sold out, you can register via Eventbrite to get a hold of a second allocation of exclusive Zoom Room Access. Plus registering also gives you event reminders and immediate access to the live stream.

Next week the speaker at togetherTalk is Karl Wilding who is Chief Exec of NCVO an organisation that champions the voluntary sector and volunteering because they’re essential for a better society. We do this by connecting, representing, and supporting voluntary organisations.


VE Day 8 May 2020

When VE Day dawns on 8th May 2020 it will be 75 years since the guns fell silent at the end of the war in Europe. Years of carnage and destruction had come to an end and millions of people took to the streets and pubs to celebrate peace, mourn their loved – ones and to hope for the future, but not forgetting those still in conflict until 15th August when it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies, effectively ending World War II.

The 75th anniversary will provide our nation, and our friends around the world, with an opportunity to reflect on the enormous sacrifice, courage, and determination of people from all walks of life who saw us through this dark and terrifying period. 

It will be an opportunity for us all to remember the enormous sacrifices that were made at home and abroad and to joyously celebrate as people did 75 years ago, the arrival of peace in Europe.

Virtual Meetings

You can join our virtual meetings every Wednesday morning at 8.00 am. They are proving popular with visitors from home and abroad joining us. We are also seeing a number of Rotarians and friends who found it difficult to join us at our meetings in the restaurant. Geoff Mayall has lined up some great speakers so why not join in by Clicking Here

Next week  Wednesday 13 May 2020 we have a speaker from Caring in Bristol who will tell us what it is like to be homeless during the coronavirus lockdown. On Wednesday 20 May 2020 we have a speaker from Brain Tumour Research.

Rotary Volunteering

Rotary members across the country are well known for volunteering to support charitable and other local community events. During the Coronavirus outbreak there are many additional needs arising particularly in relation to vulnerable people whose lives have been disrupted by social isolation. At our breakfast meeting on 29 April we considered this subject. In addition to the opportunities provided by well-established organisations, such as the Royal Voluntary Service and Age UK, there is an umbrella group known as Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK. This organisation provides details of numerous local voluntary groups that coordinate support for residents who need help. This can be in the form of delivering food or medicines, providing transport for medical appointments, putting out the bins on collection days, or simply making telephone contact with people know to be vulnerable. So, for potential volunteers who themselves are in self-isolation, there is still the opportunity to provide support to others from home using the telephone or online. The website lists around 50 such groups in the greater Bristol area. So if anyone is able to spare the time and wishes to consider volunteering with a local group, the website link is: ‘find your local group’