Tess Eagles is Chief Executive of Me2 Club, which is currently expanding its work into Reading. Here she reflects on the purpose of Me2 Club, her varied role, and her passion for inclusion and making a difference.
What is Me2 Club?
Me2 Club is a local children’s charity. Our main purpose is to tackle social isolation and loneliness caused by exclusion from mainstream activities. Me2 Club supports children with additional needs and/or disabilities, aged between 5 and 19 years, to access a mainstream activity of their choosing. Examples include uniform groups (such as Brownies and Scouts), swimming, drama, gymnastics or Zumba. Our children are given one-to-one support by Me2 Club trained volunteers. Me2 Club is unique in that we do not require a diagnosis. This means not only can we help families on the pathway but also children experiencing social and emotional difficulties.
In addition to our core work, each year we organise three days away and three residential weekends away for our children, with their volunteers, plus family events. Me2 Club also provides inclusion training for activity leaders. All children deserve the right to take part in their chosen activity and, with the help and support of a Me2 Club volunteer, they can. Our volunteers support by providing encouragement, helping with integration into the group, breaking down instructions, distraction techniques to help escalating behaviours, and by generally being a positive influence. This results in our children growing in confidence and independence. We work on the ethos of ‘prevention before crisis’.
Describe a typical working day for you…
No two days are ever the same for me! I could start the day by chairing the Wokingham SEND Providers Group (working together in partnership to provide a holistic approach to supporting families in need), visiting a family on my caseload, working on our exciting expansion plans, then be supporting at volunteer induction training. I love the varied work and the fact that alongside managing the charity and working with the trustees on the strategic planning, I also work with the children and their families.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Me2 Club is currently expanding into the Reading Borough so the current challenge is to attract new corporates, community groups and grant funders to financially support this growth.
What’s the best part of your job?
Easy to answer: working with the children, their families and the Me2 Club volunteers. My particular passion is supporting teenagers, especially around transition to adulthood, which is such a crucial time. One of my highlights is our Me2 Club Crew, a project run by our teenagers building on life skills out in the community whilst have fun and making friends.
Tell us a little about yourself…
I love to help people, starting with my first fundraiser aged 11. I passionately believe in making a difference and the right to be included, especially as I have witnessed through my family the loneliness caused by not being able to take part, resulting in social isolation.
Over the years I have been involved in a number of community groups and charitable organisations, and in a voluntary role, I am currently chair of a charitable trust. I have a varied background including finance, project implementation, education and business management. My skill set has enabled me, alongside the trustees and staff team, to grow and develop Me2 Club over the last four and half years, including our expansion into the Reading Borough. When I saw the opportunity of working at Me2 Club it was the ideal role, combining working for a charity with my passion for making a positive difference to the lives of children with additional needs and ensuring inclusion for all.
Inclusion should be a right for everyone. I believe every child should be given the chance to aspire and be given the same opportunities as their peers. Everyone deserves the right not to be judged on people’s perception of what they can or cannot do but on their achievements. Sometimes it just takes someone, or an organisation, to believe in young people to help them to gain the confidence to start believing in themselves.