GroupsImpactNewsOCFFull Circle volunteers and school children

Full Circle is an intergenerational charity that has been working with schools in Oxfordshire for 15 years. Over the past 12 months, OCF has been proactively supporting the charity whilst it was struggling to make ends meet. We are delighted that they are now back on their feet and have exciting plans for the future.

Full Circle’s aim is to promote and increase the opportunities for positive contact between the older and younger generations. To achieve this, they work with primary and secondary schools and local communities to set up intergenerational groups bringing together children and older volunteers. Full Circle staff make the links with the schools, recruit older volunteers, support a facilitator for each group and provide ongoing advice for the groups and participants where necessary. The groups meet weekly for an hour during term-time, and members of the group get to know each other, find out about each other’s lives and personal histories, while talking, playing games and learning new skills together. The groups often eat lunch together and the emphasis is on enjoying each other’s company in a sociable environment.

2016 has been a year of change for Full Circle. Towards the end of 2015, the charity found itself struggling to make ends meet, having relied strongly on grant funding that was not necessarily a stable source of income. Full Circle came to OCF as one of our first ‘Charity Triage‘ organisations. To start with, OCF provided some emergency grant funding, organised through a combination of OCF’s own private fundholders and connections with local trusts and foundations. OCF then initiated regularly monthly update meetings that have provided a space to check progress and keep up the momentum. OCF linked Full Circle up with support from Charity Mentors and the Oxfordshire Lieutenancy trustee list, and the combination of these together has enabled Full Circle to carry out a strategic review of its operations, re-evaluating its business model and structure.

Margaret Melling, Chair of Trustees at Full Circle, comments: “Regular meetings with OCF, and the practical support they could provide, were invaluable as we went through a period of change. OCF was a much-needed critical friend, helping us to stay focused on becoming sustainable whilst retaining the core purpose of our work.”

One key change was to develop new ways of working in partnership with other voluntary and public sector organisations, in particular initiating a new project in Banbury and Bicester that is being supported by Cherwell District Council. The charity is also in the process of rejuvenating its trustee board, bringing in greater experience of financial management and communications. These changes have enabled them to make the case for more sustainable funding from their partners, which include grant-making bodies but also the schools and councils that benefit from their work.

Full Circle is in a much better position as 2016 draws to a close. Alongside OCF, many other local organisations, such as Age UK Oxfordshire, have endorsed their work and rallied around to help. This means that the charity can continue to broker relationships between the 100 older people who regularly volunteer, and the schools that select children to be involved in a project.

The impact of these relationships is transformative. Children tend to come from fractured families or families where English is not their first language; or they may find it hard to concentrate or make friends. One headteacher says: “These children get support in a way that is not normally offered, where the focus is on warmth and their social and emotional needs.” Close relationships form across the groups; for example, one shy and emotionally vulnerable child now happily joins in with the activities each week.

For the adults, who often live alone or in sheltered housing, volunteering with Full Circle means combating the loneliness and isolation that is all too common in the older generation. One volunteer said she had to buy a diary for the first time in years because her life had become full again. Marjorie, who had very low self-esteem, says that Full Circle has made a huge difference to her feelings of self-worth and her emotional well-being.

OCF could not offer support to groups such as Full Circle without our network of generous donors. Find out how you can become part of our goodwill network