When Friends need some friends...

Picture of group of people at fund-raising dinner

Flashback to a Friends' Gala fundraising dinner in November 2019 with the trustees (L to R), Jenny Bindon, Simon Rice, Rob Watson, Jon Goldman, Jeremy Aspinall and Victoria Grimberg (who works at the college and provides support to the charity with admin and Trust applications). That dinner raised over £9,000 but the Friends have not been able to repeat it in due to Covid. - Credit: Submitted

The recent and sad death of its founder has thrown the spotlight on a local charity and the work it does. 

The Friends of South Devon College Students was started by the late Alan Hart back in 2008. 

Mr Hart used to be head of BBC Sport and then head of the BBC and when he moved to South Devon his passion was to help disadvantaged young students attain success.  

The charity is still going strong, but needs support now so it can be a friend to those students who are struggling in times of need. 

Current chairman Jeremy Aspinall says: “We know that getting a good education is one of the best ways of improving our life chances but imagine for a moment trying to focus on your studies and pass exams if you had just been made homeless or had to care for a single parent who is disabled. Sadly, this is the reality for some students. 

“We can all face a time of crisis – any number of life changing events can suddenly throw us off course. But for young people trying to study and pass exams these events can be devastating at a critical time of their life, with the potential to jeopardise a good education and throw a spanner in the works of career plans.” 

The Friends of South Devon College Students charity is there to help at these times of need.  

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“The college is a fantastic place to learn and achieve great academic results that can set students up for life – last year pass rates for A level students were 99 per cent,with almost half achieving an excellent A*- B result,” said Jeremy. 

“But some events and disadvantage can be incredibly challenging and make it difficult to carry on studying, like not having a safe place to live, facing the trauma of domestic violence, or simply not getting enough to eat.” 

The charity raises vital money to provide support for students at times of need. It helps provide emergency housing, a safe place to share problems, warm clothes for those without, free breakfasts for those going hungry, counselling for those needing mental health first aid. 

But Jeremy says: “During the last year though the charity has been struggling to raise the vital funds it needs to provide support for those students in need. 

“Recently we have seen an upturn in the number of students needing support, but we simply haven’t been able to do the sort of fundraising we need with all the Covid restrictions. We know we can make a real difference to young people going through crisis and we are committed to being there when they need us, but right now we really need some extra fundraising to continue this support.” 

The charity is launching an appeal to help those students facing a crisis and asking people to get involved and donate at www.friendssdcs.co.uk .  

Jeremy says: “Whatever you can donate will go a long way to making a big difference. All money goes directly to support those in need and all who work for the charity volunteer their time. £25 helps to provide warm clothes for those without any; £50 helps to provide mental health first aid for those who are desperate; £100 helps provide emergency accommodation for those who are homeless.” Companies are also being asked to consider corporate sponsorship to help struggling students. 

Jeremy says: “The charity is still going strong, but needs the support of people now to be a friend to those students who are struggling in times of need.”