One hundred students from a Carlisle secondary school were given a surprise gift yesterday to give them something to smile about during the continued disruption caused by Covid-19.

'Wellbeing packs', put together for one hundred students from Richard Rose Central Academy under the project name "Central Cares", were delivered across the city to the youngsters’ homes.

Going to the students the school felt would most benefit from them, the initiative was a joint effort between the school and Jess Nelson, the Manchester United Foundation hub officer hosted at the academy as well as John Halpin and his team from the Carlisle United Community Sports Trust, along with Riverside Housing, which is a major funder of the mentoring sports programme run at the school by the foundation and the trust.

Jess said she hoped the wellbeing packs, containing gifts that had been donated by an array of local businesses, helped the youngsters receiving them feel valued during a time where the feeling of isolation is all too common.

“I think one of the biggest challenges for young people during this time is that lockdown can make them feel isolated - they’re going to be missing their friends and the school environment,” Jess said.

“That’s going to have its impact on their mental health and wellbeing.”

"It’s been incredibly rewarding to lead and coordinate the Central Cares Project.

"Seeing the impact these care packs will have on the students will be brilliant, knowing they’ll have everything they need to take them right through summer.

"I can’t thank the team enough who helped bring this all together, without the support of our partners and local businesses none of this would be possible’.  

As well as the feeling of isolation having a potential impact on young peoples’ mental health and sense of wellbeing, Carlisle United Community Sports Trust manger John Halpin said financial and other burdens faced by the families of young people in Carlisle will also be felt by the city’s youngsters.

“There are a lot of families in this city who are facing a really tough time right now,” John said.

“The young people in those families will be feeling the effects of the stress and uncertainty a lot of people are facing.”

Stephen Finlayson, Carlisle United Community Sports Trust Hub Officer said: "I feel privileged to be able to work alongside a club that cares so much about the welfare of our youth, especially during such testing times."

Jamie Hendry, regional projects officer for Riverside Housing said he was proud that the housing association could help put together an initiative like this.

“We know that lockdown has been particularly hard on some of the families we house, and by supporting projects like this we can continue to take our role being invested with the local community seriously,” he said.

Richard Rose Central Academy headteacher Ceri Bacon said she hoped yesterday’s gesture gave some cheer to her students.

“We’ve got lots of children in the school who may, for a variety of reasons, be finding the coronavirus lockdown particularly tough,” she said.

“Something like this means hopefully that they feel a little bit more supported during this difficult time.”

She added that as teachers, one of the toughest things about the current situation is no longer having face-to-face contact with the majority of the students.

“We’ve missed the children here,” she said. “We’ve missed having them in the building, though we are running a fully remote school.

“But we know nothing can replace that face-to-face contact.”

Richard Rose Central Academy were lucky enough to receive a £10,000 partnership donation from the Manchester United Foundation, which formed a vital resource in kicking off the Central Cares project.  

Carlisle United Community Sports Trust were instrumental in their local support by accessing and collecting donations from an array of local businesses including Tesco, Cumberland Building Society, Armstrong Watson, Viking Office Depot & Pioneer, Saint & Co, ECO Communications and Ann Ford from Period Poverty North Cumbria.