13 April 2016

Isle of Man College students struggling, on occasions, to manage financially are set to benefit after Manx charity the Isle of Man Youth Partnership Student Hardship Fund received a Celton Manx Recognition award.

Launched in 2015 Recognition aims to provide support to smaller charities and not-for-profit organisations with only limited resources for promoting and developing their services.

Accepting the award on behalf the charity was the fund’s committee chairman Kerry Birchall, who has had first-hand experience of how a little financial help at a critical time in a student’s life can make the difference between continuing or having to abandon their studies.

Now an Isle of Man College IT course tutor Ms Birchall was a 24-year-old mature student working towards her Certificate in Education and computer software qualification when she received a heating bill she could not afford to pay. She said: ‘I’d always budgeted extremely carefully, but then this heating bill arrived, which I didn’t have the money for, and it threw out my finances completely. This happened around March and my course was coming to a close later that year but because of the financial hardship I was facing I thought I might not be able to afford to finish my studies.

‘I’d been involved in the college’s students’ services centre so knew about the hardship fund and, after mentioning my predicament to student welfare officer Julie Bibby, I applied for and received an award. This meant I could pay my gas bill and finish my course. The difference that award made to me not only led to me being able to pursue my career as a college tutor but also to join the student hardship fund committee and help to raise funds as a way of giving something back.

‘For the last three years I’ve chaired the committee and we make students aware of the hardship fund from the moment they attend their induction tutorial; we also issue regular reminders in student bulletins.

‘The committee applies stringent criteria when considering applications for awards which are made in the strictest confidence and are, most often, for quite modest sums just to tide a student over. Every case is judged on its merits and the awards  – some gifts, some loans – can cover essential living costs, such as subsidising a student’s shopping bill for a couple of weeks, or help with funding course-related educational visits, or paying for course books and materials.

‘We also share our insight, experience and the judging model we’ve adopted with other charities, including the Lions Club and the Salvation Army.

‘We’re thrilled to receive this generous Recognition award from Celton Manx; it will keep us going for some considerable time and make a very real difference to students in financial difficulties.

‘The awards we make are not, of course, long-term solutions; they’re simply a small cash boost at a time in a student’s life when they’re strapped for cash and their studies are becoming affected. There are, however, long-term benefits for the Isle of Man, in that by supporting these students, we’re helping to create the next generation of skilled workers. In making an award the committee is saying to the student: “You’re one of ours. We believe in you.”’

Celton Manx executive director Bill Mummery said: ‘Kerry’s story is truly inspirational. In making this award we’re acknowledging the transformational work she and her fellow committee members are achieving in realising students’ potential and supporting them at what can be a vulnerable time in a young person’s life. The help the Student Hardship Fund offers goes a long way towards ensuring talented students don’t have their future career options restricted for want of modest financial assistance. This is an approach very much in line with our own community investment programme and one we are pleased to support with this Recognition award.’

For more information about the Isle of Man Youth Partnership Student Hardship Fund contact Kerry Birchall, Kerry.Birchall@iomcollege.ac.im or Julie Bibby, Julie.Bibby@iomcollege.ac.im

(Pictured are Celton Manx executive director Bill Mummery with Isle of Man Youth Partnership Student Hardship Fund committee chairman Kerry Birchall. Photo Matt Mosur)

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