As we come to the end of 2023, we reflect on what has undoubtedly been a huge year for We Love MCR Charity! We’ve continued to improve the lives and life-chances of Mancunians, put on exciting fundraising events for our supporters and make new connections, whilst growing existing ones, to make an even greater difference in the city we call home. Here’s our wrap-up of 2023…
This year saw our core funding programmes change lives and improve communities for thousands of Mancunians, building on the work we’ve put in over the last few years to ensure we succeed in our role as the only grant-giving Charity dedicated to the city of Manchester.
Both our Manchester’s Rising Stars Fund and Stronger Communities Fund hit major milestones this year:
Manchester's Rising Stars Fund
Our Manchester’s Rising Stars Fund (MRSF) has come into its own in its 3rd year – we’re delighted to announce that the Fund made more awards to more young people in a single year since we officially launched in 2021! We made an astonishing 77 awards to 74 inspirational young people, with ambitions ranging across a vast range of industries and disciplines, totalling over £108,000.
Our vital funding allowed these Rising Stars to take steps to success in academic, vocational, sports, performing arts and entrepreneurial ambitions. A particular highlight are the 5 aspiring legal minds who we’ve supported, breaking barriers in the sector, as a result of our partnership with Brabner’s and the Maurice Watkins Bursary.
However, the most well-represented field is Healthcare – with an impressive 15 Rising Stars having ambitions to start their careers within the industry, ranging from radiographers, medicine, pharmacists and nurses. We’re delighted that the MRSF is providing a supporting mechanism for new employees to enter the NHS on a local level.
In 2023 we also supported many brilliant young people to launch or grow businesses. Maybe you are in the market for some last-minute handmade gifts for Christmas? Then check out Emily’s crochet business, or want your nails to look fab for the big day, consider getting them done by the very talented Julia. Throwing a NYE party? Consider Looney Balloons for all your decorative needs! Ibrahim is the man for the job if you’re considering updating your website or widening your marketing reach. Maybe you need a presenter for a promotional film, or a talented violinist for an event. View some of our young entrepreneurs on our MRSF Business Directory.
One story we want to spotlight is that of Sam Makonam; an up-and-coming fashion designer from North Manchester with a gift for tailoring. With funding from the MRSF, we were able to provide Sam with specialist tools, including a new sewing machine of his own, to give him every chance to make the most of his talents.
We’re proud to say that Sam designed two dresses for our Heart and Hope Charity Dinner in October, including one worn by the Lord Mayor of Manchester herself! Sam is now flourishing, and just needed that support and belief from We Love MCR to get him on the way.
Stronger Communities Fund
Our Stronger Communities Fund (SCF) continues to thrive as our longest running programme, with over a decade in operation. And again, we’re delighted to announce that the Fund made more awards to grassroots community groups and local projects in 2023 than in any year prior.
We made a record 56 grant awards, totalling over £189,000! The projects and groups that our SCF funded were in every single neighbourhood in Manchester, having a positive impact on 1000’s of Mancunians and their communities throughout the course of 2023.
All SCF awards we make are for projects addressing one of our four key themes, which are the cornerstone of strengthening our communities. These comprise of ‘help in the early years’, ‘improving our open spaces’, ‘positive youth activities’ and ‘combating social exclusion’. The last one is particularly key to building the value of our communities and keeping them strong.
One of our favourite groups we funded with that in mind in 2023 was community empowerment charity The Beginning Group, who we funded to offer over 50’s digital literacy workshops in Longsight. The weekly sessions saw 30 people attend over months, learning essentials on basic digital skills such as internet and email usage, and online banking.
TBG tell us that the impact of these workshops with our funding has led to increased digital literacy, their independence growing hugely, and making connections with new friends and even long-lost old ones through their new internet skills! We intend to continue supporting many more initiatives just like this in 2024.
Our fundraising events and challenges are well known, and in the last year we saw our supporters take on freezing temperatures with our Valentine’s Dip, the Great Manchester Run, and a timed trek through the beautiful Peak District with our ‘3 Peaks of The Peaks’ challenge.
2023 saw more people fundraise in We Love MCR events than ever before, with 280 wonderful fundraisers joining us in these three events and raising a total of over £82,000! This was bolstered by our largest fundraising team ever, with 128 runners flying the flag for We Love MCR in this year’s Great Manchester Run. Lets make next year’s We Love MCR wave even bigger!
2023’s fundraising was capped off by the 2nd annual Heart and Hope Charity Dinner, hosted by our Trustee Aneel Mussarat at the Midland Hotel in September,
and included an exclusive audience with Manchester born business leader Simon Arora
Our partnerships supported We Love MCR’s work throughout 2023. We saw long-term partners Softcat pass the £40K mark in total employee fundraising, and new partners Quay Street Productions and Manchester Law Society dive headfirst by joining us in multiple events – the next one MLS feature in is January’s rescheduled Firewalk, and their team is smashing it! Still places left if you dare…
We’d be amiss to not mention that this year saw our biggest partnership yet, with Cheadle-based company Together pledging £180K! The funds have already been put to work by funding community initiatives around Wythenshawe Park, with a bigger project in the pipeline where we’re working with our partners at Manchester City Council to change the landscape for accessibility play provision in the Park. The long-term benefits for families in the area will be huge, and we couldn’t have done this without Together’s support.
The Together project is just one of many additional partner projects that drives our wider interaction and impact with the diverse range of communities we support. Each of them are lifechanging.
This August we saw the 5th instalment of our Ghyll Head family breaks, where we fund Mancunian families struggling with complex issues to have short stays in the Lake District. These stays, and the wrap-around support delivered by Barnardo’s, have made life-changing differences to these families, so we’re extremely happy to have provided funding for another 10 families to experience that in Summer.
Also, this year we have supported Manchester City Council with the Our Year Legacy Fund. Through this, £25,000 has been awarded to local youth and community groups for activities that enrich young people's lives – including residentials, theatre trips and much more.
We worked with Action for Humanity in developing a project to support incoming refugees into Manchester who found difficulties engaging in the jobs market. These people often come highly skilled and experienced, but their displacement and language barriers cause problems. We were incredibly pleased to fund a position at Refugees & Mentors CIC to address this issue, and even more pleased to say that 7 refugees have been supported as a result with one being employed as an industrial carpenter at a Manchester firm.
In the latter part of 2023, we strengthened our partnership with Manchester Youth Zone by awarding them £20,000 to create the Nebula project, which supports young people aged 11 - 14 to explore and sample different career avenues is health, creative expression and sport. We can't wait to see our next generation of Rising Stars come from this cohort!
Finally, the relationship we have with Manchester Young Lives is one of our longest-running projects, where our funding expands their bespoke employability programme for 16–19-year-olds at risk of social exclusion. MYL have supported hundreds of young people in the 4 years since we’ve been funding them and, in one quarter of 2023 alone, over 50 young people in Ardwick and Wythenshawe accessed the provision. We can’t wait to hear more success stories from this programme as it enters its 5th year in 2024.
And that’s our end-of-year review! Thank you for staying with us in 2023, without your support we would not be able to undertake the breadth of work that our team does. Whether it’s by fundraising for us in events, following us on social media and sharing our stories, or if you’ve helped someone access our Funds – we want to say a huge Manc thank you and we hope to see you with us in 2024!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,
The We Love MCR Charity Team