John, a student of Goodwin Academy School in Deal, Kent kept falling asleep throughout lessons, which raised both frustration and concerns with his teachers and the senior leadership team. John is well-mannered, pleasant, a little scruffy but a proud young man and found the experience of sharing his problems with the school difficult, as many do. John’s mother is incredibly hard working, in fact she works several jobs as she is the only source of income, which places strains onto John and his two younger siblings. Life for them all is tough, much harder than many imagine, let alone understand. John’s mother survives on very little and will often will go without meals and the simplest of essentials purely to provide for her children. It is a constant struggle as she must juggle her family’s very existence from providing a roof over their heads, to food and warmth. Her love is unconditional, costs nothing to provide and her children suffer no hardship in this quarter. However, she has been unable to provide adequate warmth for her children.
John explained that the cold winter has been hard for them as they have been unable to afford heating in their small flat, with the long nights being the hardest. John and his mother struggle to sleep as they are cold. The youngsters are wrapped-up tight in all available bedding whereas John and his mother sleep in their clothes and coats as their priority is to keep the young ones warm. The classroom provides comfort and warmth and John inevitably turns to deep sleeps instead of learning. Of course, the teachers of Goodwin Academy rallied and provided sacks full of bed linen, which now provide night time warmth for the whole family.
I sat for several hours with Ann-Marie, the Vice Principal of Goodwin Academy School and she spoke openly about the children at her school. She cares deeply, and I cannot imagine how she wrestles with her emotions as some of the situations are difficult to accept. I was overwhelmed with sadness and cannot sit back without attempting to make a difference, which I have every intention of achieving. Sadly, John is not alone as the Thanet and Dover areas have two of the highest rates of child poverty in Kent and the south east, with around 17,200 children affected. As much as we would love to help each and every child, sadly we cannot however, we can make a difference to the children at Goodwin Academy. We have taken on a greater role and hope to support every child, not just those who are struggling financially, those in foster care or children from broken homes as I have learnt that children outside of these brackets often miss-out as much of the remedial support work, day trips and additional finances are not made available to them.
The Vinorium Foundation has presented each child with the opportunity to earn a gift voucher of £50.00 upon 100% attendance combined with good behaviour. Those children sitting between 98-99% will receive a gift voucher for £30.00 and children sitting above 97% will receive a £10.00 gift voucher. The Vinorium Foundation will fund all prizes. A special awards ceremony will be organised as we believe that each and every child should receive their gifts in front of their fellow students to huge claps and cheers. How wonderful for them all and something I am already looking forward to.
In addition, we have invested £1000.00 and created a stationery shop. Every item within the shop will be on a tariff, which is already worked out and has been checked for 'value' and 'fairness' with the students. The school has a spreadsheet ready to go which allows merits to accumulate, and which will also register exchanges for the stationery, so that every student's tally is automatically updated. Sixth form students will operate the stationery shop as part of their service to the school and it is to be housed in the library, encouraging greater use and familiarity for students who may not go there regularly already. This has already had spin-off benefits before we sell anything - student voice and sixth form community service.
A few words from Ann-Marie, the Vice Principal “Everyone at Goodwin Academy has the wellbeing and success of its young people at the heart of everything they do, day in, day out. Challenges faced by many students are hard-hitting and long-lasting in their detrimental effects, especially when due to family circumstances. Education should become the route to a better life with options and choices that we take for granted. Yet all too often, these barriers appear to become insurmountable and the young person becomes another statistic of what might have been, had their potential been fully realised. Working with The Vinorium Foundation allows us to be that much more creative in how we tackle this; it allows us to demonstrate what is possible and reward those children that dare to dream with us and who put the steps into action to fulfil those dreams. In short, it brings hope of a kind that is rarely found in schools, because it focuses on qualities and attributes that everyone can develop, which will be of life-long use. Additionally, it takes account of the community, providing a means to develop relationships and to promote the benefits of working hard, with purpose and with courage.”
How The Vinorium Foundation has supported our local and greater communities
Australian Bushfire Auction
For me, Christmas 2019 was particularly difficult to enjoy as, and being the UK’s leading Australian wine specialist, I found the scale of the Australian wildfire crisis difficult to comprehend. We have been in contact with all our producers, who are fortunately faring better than many. Of course, it is impossible for them not to be affected as the Aussie wine community is close-knit – learning of friend’s vineyards burning by the ravaging fires is hard for everyone. But vineyards can be replanted, and in some cases, buds are appearing on scorched vines which is a super sign. What cannot be replaced is the devastating loss of human life and wildlife. Tragically, 25 people have perished and in New South Wales alone, the fires have killed nearly 500 million birds, reptiles and mammals which I found unfathomable.
The Vinorium is incredibly proud to support our local community but we feel we must offer support to those affected in Australia.
I am sure we will be returning to the ‘support’ project throughout the course of 2020 however, and for now, we are inviting customers and all friends, to bid on a fabulous parcel of wine. We are donating a collection consisting of 103 bottles which represent all our UK exclusive wine producers.
We are requesting that you e-mail the team directly with your ‘bid’ to purchase this wonderful collection. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to one or shared between several of the bushfire relief funds. I acknowledge that the following sentence may not be politically correct however, this is not an opportunity to pick-up a bargain. Given the scale of the tragedy we cannot consider any bids below £3,000.00. We are happy to deliver throughout the UK and Europe without charge. I hope we receive lots of bids and many exceeding the ‘minimum.’ If this is the case, we will happily donate a second, or even a third collection.
I wish to start by thanking Michael (who has asked to be kept anonymous) for his incredibly generous bid of £5,000 for our 103-bottle collection. We decided to split the funds equally between NSW Rural Fire Service & Brigades Donations Fund and WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc.) which has been rescuing and caring for wildlife for over 30 years and is the largest wildlife rescue organisation in Australia.
Giving a little something back to our deserving friends and family.
We asked you to nominate a person who has placed others’ needs before their own during the lockdown period. In return your chosen person would receive a special thank you gift from us.
We have 54 bottles of Tassie fizz that we are donating.
We’ve loved reading some of the heart-warming nominations from our customers and your selected person will receive their wines shortly along with your special message. A huge thank you to all who took part and those nominated, for your part during these difficult times.
Not surprisingly, the 2017 and 2018 Standish collections were the biggest sellers in our sale, with 29% of all sales coming from these magnificent wines. I am delighted that many of you embraced our aspirations to allocate funds from the Standish sale to our Foundation. For those who missed my previous commentary - Last year and working closely with the school, we provided a £100 supermarket voucher to each family who we knew would not have the means to provide a Christmas Day for their children. Each voucher was hand delivered by the teaching staff to thankful parents (this was an announced gift). In fact, and to retain their self-respect, they were not told of our gift or work, which is exactly how we like it to be. With your kind support, we will be providing fifty special vouchers which I am sure will be met with the same enthusiasm and love as they are given. I must also take this opportunity to thank Mrs H (as I affectionately call her) for wanting to donate her own funds to our foundation.
Martha has recently been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy (diplegia), which means she struggles with her walking, balance and coordination. She has regular physiotherapy and must have special insoles in her shoes to help with her walking.
Earlier this year, Martha (with her sisters Elise, Hettie, Mum and Dad - Roz & Adam) moved into a new little bungalow, which required a full interior and exterior update. The bungalow has a lovely garden, but and given the magnificent age of the previous owner (she was 100), it was neglected for many years. The concrete step from the back door and patio area had moved and cracked over the many years. Unfortunately, Martha was unable to access the garden safely without being carried. Moreover, Martha was unable to manage the uneven cracked surface safely without falling and hurting herself.
Martha touched our hearts and we gladly donated the funds to ensure the garden project could start immediately and be completed in time for the summer.
We received a lovely email earlier this week from her Mother, Roz, who kindly said “I just wanted to email you to send my personal thanks for your very generous donation. I just wanted to say to you personally it wouldn’t have been possible without you, so I honestly can’t thank you enough. Here’s a photo of little Martha and how happy she is with her lovely new garden, and being able to get out there herself. For Martha to be able to get out and play in the garden freely and whenever she wants is just wonderful. Unfortunately, due to the cost, and the slope of the garden, we did have to put a small step in. But, Martha has taken this totally in her stride and actually taught herself to get down that step ON HER OWN! This is a massive achievement for a little girl that didn’t have the balance or confidence to go down any steps even holding your hand, to now just casually go up and down that little step all on her own is just the best. Her physio also advised us this was great exercise for the muscle tone in her legs, and strength and stability of her hips.”
On the one hand, talk of not having enough Standish wine is a commercial headache. However, on the other hand, it pales into insignificance as I am fully aware that families will be worrying how to pay their heating bills and provide a good Christmas for their children. Unlike many foundations / charities, we do not ask our customers to sponsor or donate. Instead, we occasionally offer great wines at daft prices – We take the monies from these campaigns, and use them in turn to provide families with a little Christmas lift. As we did last Christmas, we will be providing a £100.00 Sainsbury’s gift card to families who will struggle to provide a Christmas celebration. I accept that not having a Christmas is not the end of the world, but I am fully aware of the social and more importantly, emotional problems parents face if they cannot provide a gift or two for their children on the 25th.
I work with a local school and provide our donations anonymously, as many parents would simply reject our gifts – the issue of unknown charity does not sit well with these proud people. Last year, the teachers hand delivered the vouchers to the chosen families. The stories I heard of their appreciation were overwhelming and brought a tear to my eye and provided more reason to do even better this year. To date, we have the funds to provide fifty five families with a lovely Christmas. I must say a huge thank you to one of my customers and dear friend, Pragna, who kindly donated £500.00.
In this day and age, I find child poverty appalling, with four million children affected (in the UK alone), but this number is set to reach five million by the end of this year. Nine children in each and every classroom of thirty live in poverty, which is wholly unacceptable and set to worsen.
I am conscious that selling expensive wines may appear hypocritical versus my standpoint over child poverty. I come from a classical background – my parents separated in my very early teens and money was always tight however, my mother was tremendous, a great cook and baker and our greenhouse always packed with summer produce. Society relies far too much on convenience food which is often costly and lacks nourishment. It has also become lazy which is an endemic problem – living on handouts has become the accepted normal for many, which I do not entirely understand. By the time I started secondary school, I held down lots of jobs; a double paper round (eight mile loop) which I ran each morning. A quick breakfast followed, and then off I went to my Mother’s playschool to set out the toys. It was a comfortable two mile run to school, and all this before 8:30am. Weekends were spent either at West Ham (I was signed on their books) or in a local pub kitchen as their trusty pot wash for £10.00 per day. I was self-sufficient as I earnt in the region of £30.00 per week – I funded all my sportswear and never needed to burden my mother with the worry of funding a young teenager.
Today, I own and run (with the support of my great team) a multi-million pound wine company however, this has not created distance from my past and my ethics remain unchanged. Our foundation supports random acts of goodness as well as our continued work with our chosen school.
I asked the deputy head for some statistics and commentary a few weeks back; “As you will appreciate, due to the covid situation, the amount of families that are experiencing difficulties has increased and this time of year makes it even more challenging. I have identified families that fit the criteria of being financially vulnerable due to either unemployment, family illness, low income or loss, working with our Safeguard Lead and Wellbeing Manager. We have 240 students who are pupil premium but around 70 who would be classified as at risk of not being able to provide for their families at Christmas.”
Without wine and your continued support, we would not be in a position to help… This week we received 70 Sainsbury’s vouchers, each one provided is valued at £100.00. I accept it’s not a huge amount, but I do know it will make all the difference as we approach Christmas. Those 70 families that have been classified as at risk of not being able to provide for their families will be receiving a Sainsbury’s voucher, along with a little hamper supplied by the teachers… I would also like to thank Pragna, Nick and Miles for bolstering our contribution.
Personally, the lack of money is the tip of the iceberg and will not necessarily solve the problem which is often down to willingness and the all-important ‘I-can attitude’ which I know is missing. Once the school is safe for me to visit, I will be spending the coming years regularly teaching the children that they can succeed with little money. Most need an entrepreneurial kick-up the arse and then ongoing guidance from someone who has come from the exact same position as them…
Stuart McCloskey Founder, The Vinorium