Frequently asked questions

What we do

Our programmes help children who are struggling develop a healthier view of their own capacity, supporting them to do better at school, in relationships, and in the wider world. Building trust with children who have had experienced harm, rejection, or other childhood trauma takes time. That’s why our first piece of work with any child is to take them on a fun, immersive five-day project, packed with new experiences, adventures, and opportunities to feel successful. We call these ‘Gateway Projects’. Based in beautiful outdoor settings, typical activities include den building in the forest, grooming horses and bottle feeding baby calves at the farm, cooking dinner over a campfire and adventuring through the woods by candlelight.

The 60 hours we spend alongside a child on a gateway project is equivalent to a year’s worth of home or clinic visits by a social worker or other professional. Spending such quality time with children who aren’t used to it and being alongside them through situations which challenge and stretch them, allows us to get to know them on a deeper level than is possible via traditional forms of assessment, building a working relationship that is different to those the children have experienced before.

Gateway projects also allow us time to explore which of our longer term programmes fit best for children needing ongoing support, and help them to trust us enough to engage in it. Those needing the most intensive support join our Journey Projects, which span a year and involve groups of 8-10 children learning and working together over four residentials, using individually tailored challenges, group work and reflection to work on their own specific challenges and life skills. Other children and young people work with us through regular one to one mentoring with a dedicated volunteer, or join our Young Leaders’ Programme where they are coached to support younger children, building their leadership and communication skills along the way.

Across all our programmes, the outcomes for children, many of whom have made little progress with other forms of support, are outstanding.

Our story and our growth

Free to Be was launched in 2015, and is built on the belief that organisations need heart, soul and vibrancy, as well as safe and efficient working practices, to nurture the most vulnerable children.

For its first two and a half years, Free to Be was run entirely by volunteers, with no paid staff. The two co-founders worked unpaid, leading projects, raising funds and building infrastructure, until the organisation had grown to reach 10 London Boroughs, working with 22 referral partners. By this point, having recruited over 100 volunteers, Free to Be was providing intensive respite breaks and support for over 120 children, as well as providing term-time support to others. In 2018, we did it all again, becoming accredited by London Youth, and securing salary funding to employ the charity's first two staff members. Ultimately, Free to Be is a charity centred around the concept that people coming together with passion and commitment can achieve great things. We're proud of our determination and can do approach - our staff and volunteers go the extra mile to get the job done, whether it's sticking with a young person through the wind and the rain as they figure their way through a problem, or learning new skills ourselves to respond to challenges as they arise. (Like teaching ourselves a bit of video editing and web design to build this site!)

Our work has recently been endorsed by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, through his Young Londoners Fund, and by The Fore Trust, who identify and incubate exceptional early stage charities. We'd love to add FTI as our first major corporate partner to help us make the next step change in our exciting development.

What FTI's support would mean

FTI's support as our first ever major corporate charity partner would be transformational for a charity of our size and stage of development.

Your professional expertise and pro bono support would help us in tackling the challenges we’ll be facing as we scale and, in promoting what we do, you’d be raising our profile, adding real value by allowing us to engage with and leverage support from wider audiences.

Your fundraising would cover the full direct costs of growing our Journey Programme over the next two years, allowing us to offer a full year of tailored and intensive support to up to 60 of our most vulnerable children. You’d fund the best outdoor activities to challenge and stretch children's perceptions of themselves, cover staffing and volunteer costs to ensure they were supported by our teams of responsive and dedicated adults and looked after throughout – staying in inspiring settings and enjoying nurturing, home-cooked meals. In total, over the course of the two-year partnership, your funding would pay for 12,000 hours of direct support. For each child, equating to over four years worth of weekly clinic or home visits from social workers or other agencies.

Because of our low overheads, extensive use of volunteers and strong local links, your vote would ensure FTI's support goes further, directly funding support to children who need it.

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