The Downs Light Railway Trust is delighted and honoured to receive match funding from The Helping Hand Company and the very generous donations from supporters of the Isherwood family's 48 hour fitness challenge. The collective £50,000 provides 25% of the funding required to complete our Centenary Development Programme. This funding will go towards facilitating greater practical learning opportunities for young people, supporting and promoting career development into heritage railway, national railway, and STEM-related industries.
The trustees and I absolutely indebted to the Isherwood family, to those who supported their fundraiser, and to The Helping Hand company for generously agreeing to match the funding with such a large donation. This effort has provided one quarter of the overall funding required for our Centenary Development Programme. We move one significant step forwards in realising something quite special.
The Downs Light Railway is unique in that it is entirely operated and maintained by young people through practical learning and developing key skills that will support them entering meaningful careers. The railway rarely runs train rides for entertainment, though the children do run the railway in support of a handful of community events in a year. It often takes little to no time for visitors to realise they have walked into an outdoor classroom. The Centenary Development Programme aims to broaden the practical learning potential and involve a greater number of young people. The funding will enable better indoor facilities to be established for a broader technical education programme and more activity areas outdoors to allow for greater concurrent activities.
Typical scenes of the Downs Light Railway today. Children, aged from 7 all the way up to 18 years, develop unprecedented knowledge and learn new skills from maintaining our fleet of locomotives and half a mile of light railway. These activities have to be done outdoors. The winter months become very unproductive due to the less than conducive conditions!
By improving the general access, the Downs Light Railway will become more inclusive and able to accept more young people. This will not be limited to the local area, but from across the United Kingdom under our national youth engagement initiative. While lots of heritage railways have youth groups, young people under the age of 16 cannot volunteer on these railways by law. There is a significant gap between young people becoming interested in the variety of opportunities railways create and when they can actually take part. Often many heritage railways have a business to run and simply cannot afford the time to engage and meaningfully teach young people. The Downs Light Railway offers a way for young people in the future to get hands-on and develop an interest when it matters. Their interest in railways is to a degree irrelevant. The science, technology and engineering industries are also crying out for young people to take up successful careers in their sectors.
- The Helping Hand Company is a family run British manufacturing company, established in 1965 and based in Herefordshire. It specialises in Independent Living at home; Pressure Ulcer Management; 24hour Postural Care; Litter Management consultancy including Litter picking equipment and Contract Manufacturing.
- The Helping Hand Company provided £47,650 of match funding to bring a 48 hour fitness challenge that raised £2,350 up to £50,000 by the Isherwood family.
- The Isherwood family completed a 48 hour fitness challenge, consisting of a 24 hour continuous cycle and a 24 hour National Three Peaks challenge.
- The Downs Light Railway Trust's Centenary Development Programmes aims to provide more practical learning activities for young people to complement their formal education, boost youth engagement more widely by giving people access to practical learning from a young age, and increase an inclusive community involvement around the initiatives to promote positivity and well-being.
- The Downs Light Railway Trust leads a national youth engagement iniative to support young people enter the heritage and national rail industries, while encouraging the career prospects for young people more broadly.
- The Downs Light Railway Trust recently won the Small Groups Award for its contribution to youth engagement in the Heritage Railway Association's Awards 2021.
- The Downs Light Railway Trust is a charitable trust, registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales. Registration number is 513882.
- The Downs Light Railway occupies on average 15 children on each session. These children are aged between 7 and 18 years old. Dedicated sessions are provided to local educational establishments. General youth activities are open to all children.
- The Downs Light Railway was started in 1925. At 96 years old, it stands to be the oldest private miniature railway worldwide.