Nigel Poulton is Chief Executive Officer at York-based charity The Island and, along with his wife Rachel, was awarded an MBE in 2020 for services to fostering. Nigel oversees the charity on a daily basis but his main role is networking and securing funding for their vital work with children and young people across York.
Q What is your background?
I was born in East Africa and at the age of 8 came back just in time to watch England win the World Cup! After leaving school, I went on to study Art and Design, becoming a graphic designer and studio manager in a publishing firm, working abroad and was based in Hong Kong for some time. I then volunteered to work in refugee camps in Thailand which led to over 20 years working in relief and development projects in South East Asia and Africa. I met my wife Rachel, who was nursing in the refugee camps, and we subsequently adopted 5 children in the countries where we were working. In 2000 we returned to the UK and both studied at York University gaining Masters in social work. I then worked in community mental health and palliative care in York and Leeds.
Q When did you get involved with The Island?
In 2008 I was appointed the Manager of Mentoring Services and started working initially from my home.
Q What is the history of The Island?
The charity was formed in 2007 recognizing that all children and young people between the ages of 8 and 18 could benefit from “islands of space and time” (hence the name, The Island). Over the subsequent years The Island has become a well-established registered York charity supporting some of our most disadvantaged, vulnerable and isolated young people to realize their potential through positive mentoring relationships and activities.
Q What services does the Island provide for the local area and how does it make a difference to young people?
At the heart of The Island is the restorative relationship with each child and young person. As these flourish, trust is established, confidence builds, resilience and potential is unlocked, skills strengthened and dreams become possibilities. The charity provides not only one-to-one mentoring services but also group provisions as well as individual therapy sessions and tutoring for young people. The Island also has a holiday flat in Bridlington where families can get away, relax and re-connect with each other. Regarding the difference The Island has made, I quote from two young people: “I like The Island because you get to have a lot of fun and it helps me to stop getting angry, mad and naughty in school” and “I’ve seen things I shouldn’t see and heard things a child should never hear. Thanks to The Island I’m no longer a prisoner; the chains have been broken.”
Q How many young people rely on The Island for support?
To date, The Island has supported over 3,000 young people, reaching all corners of the city. Currently we are supporting over 150 children and seeing an increase in demand for our services as Covid-associated mental health risks disproportionately affect children and adolescents who are already disadvantaged and marginalized.
Q How has the charity survived through the pandemic?
Like most, if not all, organisations the pandemic has had and, in many ways, continues having, a big impact on children and young people and those that support them. The Island was quick to continue vital support services by moving them online, and a 24-hour helpline for families was established. We also acknowledged and adapted services for some young people where digital engagement was a huge barrier. The Island launched an appeal for distributing ‘Hampers of Hope’. Each hamper contained essential food items as well as games and other resources for all the families to enjoy. 3,000 Hampers of Hope were distributed during the lockdown. The Island team worked tirelessly to support the children, young people, their families and carers.
Q How can people support the charity?
The Island has many opportunities for people to volunteer, not only for the mentoring, but also the weekly groups, collecting food donations, making regular donations and helping to organise and attend fundraising events throughout the year. Please do visit our website: www.theislandyork.org.
Q Does the charity receive grants and funding or do you have to fundraise?
One of my main roles is that of fundraising. So, I am continually applying for funds and grants. We do also participate in different fundraising events in York and support others raising funds for The Island. To continue our vital services, we are dependent on grants and donations.
Q How do you work with other organisations in the area?
The Island works closely with a number of organisations across the city. Involvement varies from liaising regarding referrals, offering shared use of our temporary facilities to facilitating training to other groups in the community.
Q What is your proudest moment?
So many proud moments. The most recent being one of the young people joining our Board of Trustees, ensuring that the voice of young people does not get forgotten, and that young people get the urgent support that they need now and in the future!
Q What does the future hold for The Island?
The Island has plans for a new purpose-built children’s centre on it’s 8-acre site in Huntington. This will enable the charity to help even more children to achieve their potential through extending our services and activities.
The vast majority of the site will be kept as landscaped space with an outdoor gym, sports facilities, parkland, meadows, a sensory garden and growing areas.
There will also be a recreational space, performance and arts area, a public café, as well as therapy, tutoring and health advisory rooms.
The building will incorporate both passive measures and sustainable technologies including heat pumps, green roofs and solar panels for energy generation.
The Island also proposes to work with other local charities and community groups to make the best use of the new facilities which shall promote wellbeing and positive mental health. This is good news for all children and young people in York providing a safe, inspirational environment, ensuring that no young person is left behind.
For more information and to view the plans please visit www.theislandyork.org/consultation.
Call 01904 628449
The Island, 17 Shipton Road,
York YO30 5FZ
Registered Charity 1120420