When I was growing up and going through school, I never really valued my education. I was fortunate to have a supportive family that always made sure I tried my best, and I was fortunate (and thankful) that I achieved the grades that meant I could take the next step to university and later to land my job here at Conscious Communications four years ago.

But I didn’t have a very enjoyable time at school. I was badly bullied throughout. Some memories have a lasting ’sting’.  School days should be carefree – a time to simply enjoy growing up with your friends, and to navigate together the challenges of academic, physical and emotional development that we all experience. For many, however, this is not the case.

It was this time last year, when I was researching local charities to nominate to be our 2017/18 charity of the year (we all vote on which charity to work with each year), that I stumbled across a charity called Red Balloon while reading the Cambridge News. I was instantly humbled by the content of the news story, and knew I had to share the charity’s work with the rest of the team. When I told everyone about the charity’s work, the vote returned a unanimous ’yes’ from the team, to select Red Balloon as our charity of the year.

Red Balloon supports young people who self-exclude from school, due to past experiences such as being subjected to bullying or other traumas. Set up in 1996, the charity opened its first centre in Cambridge. Now in its 22nd year, the charity hosts four centres in Cambridge, Norwich, Harrow, and Reading. Red Balloon has also set up an online ‘centre’ – Red Balloon of the Air – in order to expand the charity’s provision to meet a growing need, combining online teaching and therapy with in person mentoring, to achieve the same results as are seen in the physical Red Balloon centres.

The charity’s values are so closely aligned to ours, as an agency, that we were all really motivated to get involved. Over the last year we have been truly inspired by the work of the Red Balloon team, through meetings with the charity’s founder, Carrie Herbert, and spending time with the staff members who work so hard to make the charity the success that it is.

We have supported the charity on both a strategic level and through a public relations, marketing and design programme, running workshops throughout the year to support the charity in: developing a communications strategy; understanding the power of e-mail marketing and platforms like MailChimp; and reviewing its website, choosing the right WordPress theme and learning the functionalities of the CMS. Our design team also supported Red Balloon in developing its annual report, proof-reading the content and establishing the design, ahead of sharing new Red Balloon brand guidelines with the team.

We hope our support has helped the charity to flourish, in order to be able to offer even more young people who are not only missing out on their right to an education, but also on important opportunities to socialise and share experiences of growing up alongside their peers, the chance to re-engage and cherish their school days.

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