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Even the Queen has heard of Red Hen now!

By 24th October 2020No Comments

Press Release: 12 October 2020


Christine O’Reilly, a family worker at Cambridge-based charity The Red Hen Project, has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Chris, as she is known to all, has been the driving force behind The Red Hen Project for 18 years.  During this time, she has helped and supported hundreds of families in North Cambridge to enable children to thrive at school.

“I was totally bowled over to receive the news,” said Chris.  “It has been my absolute honour to work for the Project and be let into the lives of all the families I’ve worked with.  All children should have the opportunity to thrive, and fulfil their full potential in this world no matter their circumstances.”

The Red Hen Project has been helping children and their families in North Cambridge for more than 22 years.  They work with primary schools to offer help and support to tackle a wide range of issues which might be affecting a child’s education.  These include, amongst other things, school attendance, behaviour challenges, food poverty, housing, mental health, family breakdown, domestic violence and isolation.

Project Lead, Sarah Crick said, “We are delighted to see Chris’s contribution recognised in such a special way two weeks before her retirement on October 23. This news has come at the perfect moment as it’s been a tough year for everyone and it’s so good to have something to celebrate.”

“The impact Chris has had in the community is phenomenal.  It crosses generations.”

When the news was announced on the charity’s Facebook page, there was an outpouring of thanks and affection from families Chris has worked with over the years.

Talking about her work, Chris said, “My hope is that asking for, and accepting, the kind of help Red Hen offers should become acceptable, in fact normal.  Raising a family is hard work – and we all need a helping hand at one time or another.”

During her work with Red Hen she has seen families grow, move on and have their own children. Every year at Arbury Carnival she takes great delight in them coming to see her to update her on their progress.

She has also enjoyed seeing the project move from being relatively unknown to being widely recognised as an example of excellent practice and a source of support for a great many families.

Chris moved to Arbury more than 40 years ago and she draws on her own experience of the hardship of raising children alone in her work with families. Widowed when her eldest was six, and youngest just ten months old, she is immensely proud of all three of her children and three grandchildren.

“I want to thank all my family.  I couldn’t have committed so much of my life to the Project without their support,” said Chris. “They taught me all I know about parenting!”

When not supporting children and their families, Chris is walking her dog and, together with her sister, caring for her mother in Littleport.

Lesley Ford, Chair of the charity’s board of trustees said, “Chris really is the heart and soul of The Red Hen Project, and with her care and commitment and proper good sense, she has made the most enormous difference to so many families.

“We will miss her of course but are so proud that her work with us has been recognised and she will remain a forever member of The Red Hen family.”

Notes for Journalists

To find out more visit and follow us on Twitter at @RedHenCambridge

For interviews or photos, contact: Sarah Crick, Project Lead on or call 07867 303 866.

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