On Thursday, Elise, Elizabeth and Alex boarded a train bound for West Byfleet to join Chairman Robin Broadhurst on a visit to our Surrey-based, grant-funded project Eikon.
A very warm welcome from the Eikon team awaited us. We were greeted by CEO and Founder Chris Hickford, who set Eikon up 20 years ago. Back then, Chris' office was a school broom cupboard; today Eikon works with over 2,500 children per year from its HQ on the site of Fulbrook Secondary School.
The children and young people Eikon work with are often struggling to cope with extremely difficult personal issues. Despite the severity of these issues, many of them are deemed to have not yet reached the required level of crisis to qualify for Government support: one particularly tragic example Chris gave was of a boy who came to Eikon for help after finding the body of his father, who had committed suicide.
The Eikon model focuses on three core principles: being preventative, being relational and operating a ‘no wrong door’ policy. Young people come to Eikon because they feel worried, afraid or isolated due to difficulties at home or at school. In some instances, problems spread from individual to friendship group to entire school years, with year nine (13-14 years) identified as being the most critical in a young person’s development.
There are financial implications too: it costs £300 for Eikon to work with one young person, compared with £5,500 for statutory services. Once an individual enters the criminal justice system that cost leaps to £37,000.
Head of Fundraising and Communications Liz Taylor and fellow member of the fundraising team Heather Boardman gave us a quick tour of Eikon’s facilities. Currently headquartered in a cramped portacabin on the Fulbrook site, where it has been based over five years of considerable growth, the charity is purchasing a second portacabin from the school . A LandAid grant of £20,000 is enabling Eikon to refurbish and modernise both: "a really exciting, positive development for us now", as Chris said.
The original cabin – which at present serves as both a social space for young people and an office for the Eikon team – will in the future house all youth activities and programmes run by the charity. The second cabin will become an operations hub for Chris and his colleagues. Put together, they will offer a huge amount of flexible space internally - while the rough ground outside the cabin will become a communal garden and vegetable patch.
Following the tour, Director of Youth Services Ben Harman talked us through the floorplans, detailing exactly how the new setup will serve the thousands of young people who come to Eikon for help each year.
Over lunch we also heard from Caley Purkhardt (Youth Specialist for Fullbrook School) and Toby and Chloe, two local young people whom Eikon have helped. Both came to the charity during times of difficulty. Support from Eikon pointed their lives in the right direction. Now they are a part of the Eikon family, helping the charity to improve and modernise its services either as part of its youth development board, or by volunteering at the charity on a regular basis.
These are momentous times for Eikon and the young people of Surrey whose lives it touches. We'll be returning to West Byfleet in October for the grand opening - do get in touch if you'd like to come.
Charity visits are a great way for LandAid supporters to see first hand the fantastic work our charity partners do, and the lasting impact their generosity can have. Visits normally take 1-2 hours and usually take place at lunchtime, often with lunch provided. The visits are completely free to attend. Find out more.