HRH The Princess Royal, Princess Anne, met families who had been helped by the Red Hen Project yesterday (Wednesday, March 17).
Three parents and a grandmother spoke to her about their experiences on a video call. They have gone on to support us as project workers, trustees and advocates.
Red Hen’s Project Lead Sarah Crick said: “It was an honour to meet The Princess Royal and be able to tell her about the vital work Red Hen does to help families in Cambridge. No matter your circumstances, parenting is hard.
“Add to that relationship breakdown, financial difficulties, illness, employment worries, housing crises and it is not difficult to understand why Red Hen is so very valuable and never more needed.
“As a small organisation we are always struggling with financial sustainability. Our second lottery funding comes to an end in just over a year and our current work will be ineligible for a third grant.”
Her Royal Highness also spoke to family worker Rachel Bennett and recently retired family worker Chris O’Reilly, who received the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2020.
Chris said: “It was wonderful to have the opportunity to talk to The Princess about Red Hen. The project became a huge part of my life and felt like a family where anyone could ask for help and get the support they needed and they, in turn, helped others. Red Hen is an amazing project that must continue to be an integral part of the local community.”
While there are many reasons why children do not thrive at school and need the support of Red Hen, we are increasingly finding poverty is at the heart of a large proportion of cases. During the pandemic, food insecurity rose and we teamed up with the Cambridge Fruit Company delivering more than 1000 boxes of fruit, vegetables, milk and eggs to families in need. Their Christmas box appeal meant families in need were able to cook and enjoy 1000 traditional turkey dinners. Cambridge Fruit Company’s founder Neil Bharadwa and his sister and co-owner Nisha were also on the call.
“I know the Pandemic has been horrible for everybody but one of the few amazing stories that came from this is our new relationship with the Red Hen Project. We’ve since gone on to make it so easy for customers to donate fresh produce to vulnerable families in Cambridge”
The Princess spoke to Gemma Maloney, parent to three children, who were supported through the pandemic when her husband’s illness, combined with the high cost of living in Cambridge led to the family experiencing financial difficulties. They became homeless in early 2020. Red Hen provided weekly doorstep visits with food boxes, supplies for the children, and emotional support.
Gemma said: “Red Hen are absolutely amazing. They’ve been a lifeline. If there is any way they can help, they will.”
Also among the parents taking part in the virtual royal visit was Tanya Barrett, a community ambassador for Red Hen who says the help she received when her daughter was struggling at school was transformational and changed the course of their lives. It was the second time their paths had crossed. When she was a child, Tanya presented The Princess with flowers during a royal visit to Duxford and was delighted to see her again.
She said: “Meeting Her Royal Highness again was just as magical as the first time I met her when I was 4.”
Rev Dave Maher, Vice Chair of Trustees at Red Hen, introduced the charity on the call.
He said: “The Red Hen project has provided support and care for hundreds of families over many years in our area. During the pandemic they were creative and responded rapidly, reaching out to families and supporting other organisations as they tried to help. It is wonderful that The Princess Royal has given up her time to find out more about their work and hear directly from the families that have been helped, recently and over the years.”
Julie Spence OBE QPM, Lord-Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire said: ‘It was a pleasure to host The Princess Royal’s virtual visit to Red Hen so she could hear about their important work both pre and post the pandemic, including their key Covid19 alliance with the Cambridge Fruit Company which became a lifeline to both’.
To support our work please visit www.redhenproject.org/donate
To donate an essentials box with fruit, vegetables, milk and eggs through our amazing partnership with Cambridge Fruit Company visit https://www.cambridgefruitcompany.com/product/red-hen-box/