Last year we introduced an initiative in which a charity of our team’s choice would receive year-long support from the company and our clients.
After conducting a vote, we’re delighted to announce the Make it Clear charity for 2022 will be Free2B. We’re excited to be launching our campaign for 2022 and raising money for such a worthy cause. It quickly became clear during voting, that social inclusivity and diversity is a subject that’s close to a lot of our hearts.
How will Make it Clear support Free2B?
We’ll be holding various fundraising activities throughout the year to raise money, including offering a £10 donation for any of our clients that fill in a post-project survey.
Who are Free2B?
Now you’re up to speed with our campaign, let’s formally introduce you to Free2B. To dive deep into who they are and their cause, we sat down with a few of their team to discuss what they’re all about.
1. In under 500 words, please tell us about Free2B and what the organisation does?
Free2B is a community organisation based in South West London and we support LGBTQ+ young people through group and 1:1 provisions. As part of our holistic approach, we support parents of gender variant young people through our Proud Parents group. We also offer awareness training to organisations in order to tackle the root causes of the discrimination our members face.
We launched back in August 2015, though we have been running our senior LGBTQ+ youth club – The Gap since 2010 (as part of a local authority service), so it’s a bit confusing that we are 6 and 11 years old!
Our LGBTQ+ youth service has seen continued growth in order to meet the needs of our members. We now run a weekly junior and senior youth club, a weekly wellbeing group and a trans group in school holidays alongside our 1:1: Free2Talk service which is embedded in schools across Wandsworth, Merton and most recently, Richmond.
Everything we do is client-led – which is one of our four core values. We regularly consult our members in order to adapt our services and meet emerging needs. During the pandemic, we developed a number of factsheets and resources for our members to access online. These have been very successful and are something we’re keen to develop further to create more LGBTQ+ guides and resources.
2. What is your role at Free2B?
I am a Director and one of the co-founders along with Nicki Ryan. Day to day I oversee the running of Free2B which includes completing grant applications, project management, strategic development and HR. We have a very clear ethos at Free2B that all staff regardless of role and level should work directly with young people as this is so essential to our mission. Therefore, alongside my management responsibilities, I also coordinate our youth council and help deliver the weekly youth groups!
3. From your time working with Free2B, what has been your most memorable experience, positive and/or negative?
There have been so many fabulous moments over the 6 years since Free2B launched! I would say I am most proud of our amazing youth council – Rainbow Power. We have a group of young people who give up their time each week to work on LGBTQ+ social action projects as well as contributing to the running of Free2B. There have been different members over the years and we currently have 8 fantastic youth council members and a further 3 who are part of an extended youth council who get involved remotely because they are unfortunately not ‘out’ at home and therefore they cannot safely attend the in-person meetings.
They come up with their own priorities and social action projects and it’s been an absolute privilege supporting them to put their plans into action. In recent years they have created a whole range of resources to help professionals become more LGBTQ+ inclusive, including developing a training film specifically for schools, demonstrating the devastating negative impact school can have on LGBTQ+ pupils and highlighting 5 simple steps that can make all the difference.
They have also designed and created a school lesson plan and an amazing board game for their peers to learn about basic LGBTQ+ terminology, about the impact of HBT hate crime and bullying and about equalities legislation.
4. Over the last 20 years, and in particular the last 5-10, we’ve seen a social shift that is trying to make an active effort to be more culturally aware and accepting. How has Free2B found this change?
When we first started in 2010 there were only a couple of LGBTQ+ specific services in Wandsworth borough and now we chair a Wandsworth LGBTQ+ delivery network with 12 different organisation members which is really positive. And it’s always great to see local organisations getting more involved. For example, we have just partnered with Kingston College to support their ‘Rainbow Takeover’ during LGBTQ+ History Month and our youth council will be judging their pride art competition!
5. Being a kid can be difficult, even more, when you're seen as being ‘different’ How are schools adapting to managing LGBTQ+ individuals and scenarios?
Schools are adapting, we’re getting more approaching us asking for our support however, we’re still seeing quite a lot of anxiety. We also find it’s the headteachers, deputy heads and pastoral teams who are making the initial contact, with support taking slightly longer to filter down to other members of staff. It’s vital this information reaches even the lunch and reception staff, all places where a young person has interaction. It’s these secondary environments where the damage can be done, there has to be a whole-school approach.
6. We still live in a very unequal world. What further changes would Free2B like to see from governments to businesses, and even society as a whole to ensure LGBTQ+ individuals feel safe and included?
We’re looking for governments, businesses and society to make sure that LGBTQ+ individuals feel safe and included. That is everything, from schools, the workplace, to going out on a night out – for LGBTQ+ people to feel they’re accepted by the community. There is also a lot of work still to do for equal rights in practice for trans and non-binary individuals.
What would you say to someone who is maybe struggling to cope with certain emotions or hardship due to their sexual orientation?
For any individual who’s struggling with sexuality or gender, you’re not on your own even though you may be unable to say anything because of your current situation. There is a whole world out there that will embrace and accept you. You can be whoever you want to be. There are always people you can talk to, whether it is face to face or online, Light is always at the end of the tunnel, how you feel now won’t be the same in five or ten years’ time.
We say to our young people, you don’t have to come out to everybody right now. Pick a friend you feel comfortable with and come out to them if it’s not safe at school or at home. Have that person you know who is going to fight your corner.
7. For anyone who is looking to support Free2B, how can they help and get involved?
There are lots of ways people can support us. If you’d like to get involved, why not organise a fundraiser for Free2B! From sponsored walks to parachute jumps, if you have an idea please do get in touch as we’d love to hear from you. We are also currently looking for a new Treasurer to join our team – you can find out more via our website.
8. What are Free2B’s goals for 2022?
Due to the pandemic, we have had to limit the activities we can deliver – so we are hoping this year we will be able to run trips and fingers crossed even a residential in the summer!
Last year we successfully achieved CPD accreditation for our training packages so it’s a key goal this year to promote our training offer and reach new organisations.
We are also really excited about the launch of our brand new e-commerce shop which sells Free2B merchandise. We have everything from hoodies, flasks to tote bags and a fabulous rainbow frog mug designed by one of our talented youth club members. All proceeds go to funding what we do, you can find the website here.
Over the coming week’s, we’ll be announcing a set of company charity activities to begin our fundraising. Join us on our LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter as our team take part in a number of challenges and competitions.