June 19 2013 Latest news:
Sukran Sahin, Senior Reporter
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Hilary Pannack is chief executive of the charity Straight Talking which employs around a dozen Barking and Dagenham teenage parents to go into schools as peer mentors and give practical workshops to help reduce unplanned teenage pregnancies.
She lives in Kingston upon Thames, which is where the story of Straight Talking began. The charity works with 81 teenage mothers and young fathers in eight London boroughs, Birmingham, Surrey and Somerset.
Straight Talking was founded in 1998 up a ladder in my loft.
I had been working for many years as a qualified part-time youth worker, in residential settings with young mothers and setting up and running young mother support groups.
I came to realise that, while the group setting was supportive, it wasn’t giving the young mothers the motivation they needed to move on.
I was approached by a teacher from a Catholic school who asked for advice about delivering lessons in her school for the pupils to understand the implications of early parenthood.
She must have caught me at a very creative moment because I had so many ideas and I suggested that we play tapes of babies screaming for hours on end and involve them in taking a heavy buggy up and down stairs.
Within a year, the charity was delivering its work in several schools in and around the borough of Kingston upon Thames.
The loft room, with no windows and no heating, was beginning to be a problem.
Having identified that young parents would have a far more powerful delivery in the classroom, I invited them up the ladder to the loft, praying that there would not be a health and safety issue to put her out of business.
There then began a period of rubble, noise and dust while two friends were persuaded to build an extension so that a more suitable office could be made available elsewhere in the house.
A temporary office was set up in my bedroom. One day I received a phone call from The Nationwide Foundation, who realised they had the wrong number.
I asked them for their remit for funding and within a week, the chief executive was sitting on my bed, amidst the sound of drilling and brick dust, suggesting that Straight Talking might like to participate in a partnership with four other charities for funding of £2.2million over three years.
The charity received £147,000 to capacity build and set up another scheme in Barking and Dagenham that is still running to this day.
Had I not received that phone call, things might have been very different.
None of us would be here without the support of our funders and several of them had the foresight to see that this would really happen.
They put their trust in my idea, for which I am very grateful.
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In November 1956 Mr Munn, chief public relations officer of the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, walked into the office of the Barking Advertiser, where I was a reporter.