Poverty must not stop children from loving to learn: Level Trust

Shortly after her father died suddenly from cancer, Natalie couldn’t bring herself to ask her grieving mum for money for a winter coat. Her dad had been the bread-winner, and mum was struggling. The 11 year old was shivering while trying to play with her school friends at break time, and kept catching colds and becoming unwell.

Farah’s feet were hurting because her school shoes were too small. Her mum was only working part-time because she had to care for her nan, and could not afford a new pair. The 15 year old pretended to be sick instead of going to school in the wrong footwear.

Frank had recently stretched himself to the limit to buy his daughter a new school blazer and jumper. But then she suffered mental health issues, put on weight and couldn’t fit into it any more. Young Sinead was embarrassed, and dad was in tears worrying about her.

Thankfully for these three families, and thousands more like them in Luton, our town has an organisation that helps. The Level Trust has been supported by Luton Rising since it was founded in 2013, and is dedicated to providing children and young people living in poverty with the vital things they need to be healthy, enjoy life and able to learn.

For Natalie and Farah, gift cards ensured their mums could buy them a new coat and shoes. For Frank, the trust’s uniform exchange scheme provided the answer.

“Sadly, in Luton, one in three children live in poverty. Right now, thousands of children in the town are missing out on the essentials they need for learning because their families cannot afford them, such as school uniform, shoes, winter coats, learning resources and enrichment activities outside of their school life. Without these essentials, children are more likely to be bullied, removed from lessons or truant, and their happiness, confidence and ability to participate academically and socially is damaged.”

Level Trust CEO

The trust is run by a team of five skilled and compassionate full and part-time staff and volunteers who work with 69 schools and nurseries in Luton to make sure the help goes where it’s most needed.

Initiatives also include the supply of free learning packs, containing stationery and books, and holiday activity programmes attended by hundreds of young people each year.

With the help of its supporters and partners across the town, in one year, the trust helped more than 4,500 low-income families in Luton, enabling the award of 1,500 pairs of shoes, 600 winter coats and 1,200 learning packs.

It all began when a group of local volunteers got together to talk about what they could do to support children suffering these circumstances.

“We have found over the time of our existence just how many families are bringing up children in poverty, are very proud of the difference we make to children and families in Luton, and equally we recognise that we couldn’t do this without the backing of so many dedicated people.”