Category Archives: charity


Balloons services are available to all pre and post bereaved children and young people who live in Exeter, Mid and East Devon Districts and who are aged between 3 and 18 years of age. They will have experienced the death (or are experiencing the imminent death) of someone significant in their lives.

Grieving children and young people share their experiences with volunteer Grief Support Workers as they move through their grieving and healing process. Balloons takes account of their emotional, spiritual, social and physical needs.

The children and young people attend school or college in Balloons catchment area. They are referred by education, social care or health professionals, by families or neighbours, and they can self refer. Before the first contact is made, the child or young person will be made aware of the referral, and they must be happy to be involved with Balloons.

It is evidenced that bereavement at an early age can cause many reactions in children, either at the time of the death or later in their lives. Teenage pregnancy, anti social behaviour, and failed studies can be the result of a bereavement which has not been dealt with. Positive and timely intervention will minimise this negative response.

In a pre bereavement situation, before the death of someone close, a Grief Support Worker will ensure that communication channels within a family remain open, and that all family members involved fully understand the emotional roller coaster the child or young person is experiencing. This enables the family to work together through an incredibly difficult time.

About 1,800 children and young people living in Exeter, Mid and East Devon are experiencing the death of someone close to them at any one time.

There are also other volunteering opportunities available to get involved with this fantastic charity.

One young person wrote to Balloons:

I think that Balloons helped me understand what happened and the activities we did were very helpful. I enjoyed the 6 weeks we met for and I found it very creative and enjoyable for myself. It also helped me take my mind off the situation and helped me overcome and talk about it, which I think would help me in the future. Aged 13

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Fancy doing some volunteering?

Voluntary work is a great way to learn new skills, make friends, and build your confidence, as well as adding to your CV and giving you a recent reference.  If you’re considering a career change, it can be a perfect way to try out a new role and show potential employers how dedicated you are to the new career.

There are lots of fantastic opportunities to get involved with volunteering.  The Do-it website is a great place to start.  If you’re already involved with a local organisation that you’d like to support, then you could ask them directly about volunteering opportunities.  Pre-schools, playgroups, schools, and Children’s Centres often need all kinds of volunteers, from receptionists, to gardeners, as well as roles that are more involved, such as playwork or breastfeeding peer support.  Most charitable organisations will be looking for people to help out with fundraising – from selling raffle tickets, to events organisation.

Here are some organisations that we have identified that offer voluntary positions that we think will be of interest to Mums in particular:

Home Start is a national charity, supporting families that are finding it difficult to cope.

Balloons is an Exeter based charity, supporting children who are dealing with bereavement

Real Nappy Advisors help new Mums get to grips with reusable nappies.  In many areas this involves providing a trial kit for a month and supporting the parents in using the nappies and deciding on the best options for them.  This goes well alongside a real nappy retail business, as the family is then offered a discount voucher if they buy from you (refunded to you by the local council).  Read blog posts from local nappy brand, Eccobots, and retailer, The Natural Nursery.

Breastfeeding Peer Supporters help new Mums deal with the many issues they can face with breastfeeding.  They can volunteer within Children’s Centre groups, and in hospital maternity wards in some areas.  Training is usually undertaken through the local Children’s Centre, and locally has been done through Healthy Babies UK.

Have you done any voluntary work?  What sort of voluntary work would you consider doing?

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Angel Face

A few years ago, in a previous job, I was looking for voluntary work for a customer and stumbled across some opportunities to volunteer in a Bridal shop.  It wasn’t right for that customer, but it looked like such an amazing opportunity, I stored it away in my memory for the future.  Fast forward a couple of years, and my boyfriend surprised me with a proposal!  I immediately remembered the shop that I’d seen all those years ago, and got on Google to see if they were still there.  I was in luck.  I got in touch with Angel Face and a few days later (and more than a year before the wedding itself) I found myself in there trying on what would become my wedding dress.  (In my haste, I tried that dress on, not in the traditional company of my Mum and bridesmaids, but of my 3 month old son.)

Angel Face is much more than a bridal boutique.  They are a social enterprise.  They provide fantastic, friendly and personal service that makes you feel like the first bride they have ever worked with, and then they invest their profits in young people.  They create training, sponsorship and employment opportunities – helping young people discover their talents – in design, seamstressing, modelling, photography or event planning.  They also showcase young and local designers in their shop.

If you are lucky enough to be looking for a wedding dress, I highly recommend visiting Angel Face’s lovely shop on the river in Buckfastleigh, Devon.  You can also follow them on Facebook.

The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust

Supporting families since 1853.  The Fashion & Textile Children’s Trust (FTCT) was founded over 150 years ago, to support disadvantaged children, whose parents or carers work in the UK fashion and textile industry.  We provide grants to support all aspects of a child’s well-being including sickness, disability, bereavement, and issues arising from financial hardship.   Here in Devon, thousands of parents are, or have been, employed in retailing in clothing or shoe shops, working in manufacturing or working in our historic Mills. When family crisis strikes or financial hardship takes hold, children are often on the frontline of suffering.  This amazing charity provides essential grants to ensure every affected child can still thrive and achieve their dreams.  Learn more about FTCT here.

The BIG Little Dream Company

This is the non-profit arm of Angel Face devoted to helping children and young people gain self confidence, skills and belief in their talent.   We provide a broad range of skills based programmes to help discover and nurture the best talent in the South West, particularly amongst children, young people and women who have faced significant barriers in their lives.   We believe passionately in the heritage of local communities and reviving skills in industries that have declined here in the UK.   We want to inspire a new generation of designers, craftsmen and women, sales and marketing leaders and young entrepreneurs who embrace the concept of social enterprise.   We link emerging young leaders with experienced industry contacts to provide mentoring and support as they set about turning their dreams into a big reality.  We aim to contribute to the re-generation of vibrant, prosperous local communities here in the South West.  For more information:  01364 644988


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Face Painting

In June, the Opportunity Plus South West team all got together to do a Face Painting course with Cats Whiskers from Bristol.  We had so much fun turning each other into tigers and pirates and butterflies!  But this was more than a team building day.  Part of our lottery funding is for us to support local community groups.  We thought that offering free face painting at community events would be a great way to get people involved and to help with fundraising.

On the 7th August, Chloe went along to the Mary Rose Community Centre in Buckland, Newton Abbot.  They were holding a celebration event for the Breastfeeding Peer Supporters who have recently completed their training with Healthy Babies UK to volunteer and help new Mums get to grips with breastfeeding.  This was also part of World Breastfeeding Week 2013.

Chloe painted the faces of around 10 of the older children, and it was really popular – some children came back more than once to be turned into something different!!

Do your children like having their faces painted?  What’s their favourite character to be painted as?  So far we have found Spiderman and Butterflies to be the most popular designs.

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Crafty Moments

Crafty Moments is a group started by Friends of Sure Start Dawlish and Teignmouth (FOSS).  FOSS was set up in October 2009 in response to funding cuts for Sure Start.  The comittee of parents fundraise and arrange fun events and activities for young children in the area and their parents.

FOSS have organised kids discos (my boys love these), family fun days (amazing events full of great activities), sponsored toddler waddles, a Mums netball team, nearly new sales and craft fayres, and have created a fantastic sensory garden in Dawlish.

Crafty Moments is a group for Mums to go to one evening a month, to meet other Mums in a non-baby related setting, and to learn new simple crafts, and of course drink tea and eat cake!

So far the group has done things like glass painting, salt dough, paper pom poms, bunting making and much more.  This Wednesday, 17th April, they will be making simple skirts – take a look at the event on Facebook for more information.  All Mums are welcome to come along, and for this one you will need to take your own fabric.

Check out our lovely new skirts!

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Inverteign Family Learning Centre

The Inverteign Family Learning Centre was set up more than ten years ago, to provide training to parents of pupils at Teignmouth Community School and the wider local community.  They provide free maths, english and ICT training, and even have a free creche for parents with younger children.  It is a really friendly community centre, providing a much needed service for many parents.

We went up to the centre this Thursday to do an Easter bunting workshop with some of the Mums that use the centre, and to introduce the services that Opportunity Plus South West and Flexi-Mum can offer.

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Easter Craft Fayre

Shaldon pre school are holding an Easter Craft Fayre on Sunday 24th March from 2.00pm – 4.00pm to raise funds for the pre school.  There are a few tables still available for just £6 each.  If you would like to showcase some of your lovely crafty goodies, call 07815 960516.  If you’d just like to come and shop, bring the kids along and they can visit the Easter bunny!

If you run a craft business online, craft fayres are a great opportunity to meet some of your customers, gain some new customers, and get feedback on your products.

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Women V Cancer

In 2011, Michelle Manders, mother to Lucas, was diagnosed with cervical cancer aged just 25.  Thankfully this has been treated and she has now been given the all clear.  Michelle will be cycling across Cuba in October 2013 to raise money for three cancer charities (Breast Cancer Care, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, Ovarian Cancer Action).  She has already raised £1610 of her £2900 target and is busy fundraising and training.

I am doing a cycle across Cuba to help raise money for the three very important charities that Women v Cancer are supporting.  In November 2011 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer, at the age of 25 this was the last thing I thought would happen!  After many appointments and small operations at Torbay hospital and Exeter hospital, I was told I would need further treatment.  I was referred to St Bartholomews hospital in St Paul’s, London for a much more major and specialist operation – a ‘Radical Tracalectomy’ and also to have my ‘Lymph nodes’ removed.  After a long 11 days in hospital recovering and a few further problems I was eventually allowed home, being told I would receive my full results in two weeks time.  Thankfully on the 21st march 2012 I was told that the tracalectomy got all of the cancer and I was cancer free and could finally get on with my life and no more treatment was needed, just regular check ups.

Michelle on her wedding day

Following this, I went to Paphos in Cyprus in September last year and married my husband, who has been there for me throughout all of this.  I’m now enjoying spending lots of quality time with my little boy, Lucas.  Everything I have been through in the last 18 months has inspired me to do something to help these well deserved charities in raising money to help people like myself and also people less fortunate then me who require more treatment.
To support my fitness throughout my training I have been going to a military bootcamp class. ‘Phys Group’ run various levels of bootcamp classes and I often do most of them to try to build up my fitness ready for Cuba!  Physgroup ethos is to provide fun, social, interactive and effective outdoor military fitness suitable for all abilities.  For class times and more information please visit phys bootcamp or phys walk.

You can support Michelle and make a donation to Women V Cancer through Michelle’s page on Just Giving.

We wish you the very best of luck in Cuba Michelle!

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