free@last was established in 1999, with a mission to improve the lives of the children and young people of Nechells. This is done by providing new opportunities (adventure, exploration, broadening horizons etc.), activities, mentoring and support for children and young people. To further their interests free@last also work with their families, other agencies and relevant professionals as well as providing a range of youth clubs, sports, education and career programmes and family activities/residentials.
Also ran by free@last is the Duke of Edinburgh Awards (DofE) scheme, Nechells Young Leaders programme, 1-2-1 and family mentoring and debt and benefit advice.
In a slight change from the norm the team who run free@last also run two businesses Freax Adventures www.freaxadventures.co.uk and the Family Fun Zone www.familyfunzone.co.uk. These not only generate income for the charity, but employ local people, including teenagers.
Over the past 5 years we have purchased our own building, enabled 22 young people to achieve their bronze and silver DofE awards, completed 2 Young Leaders projects with 26 young people that included a social action project in Bulgaria. The project taught these youngsters the principles of leadership in all 3 sectors including business development, from learning to produce soap, to making a presentation to large corporates (i.e. the Hilton Hotel) to sell the product. Our advice service in Nechells has been very effective in reducing family debt and increasing benefit entitlement to over £12 million. We have also mentored over 50 of the most troubled children and young people in our community, delivered over 500 dad's and kids workshops and developed fantastic working relationships with over 70 businesses, local schools, voluntary organisations and City Council departments. We have started and sustained several businesses with a business model of Limited Company by Shares with free@last as the only shareholder.
In 2009 we began our 'buy a brick' campaign to purchase our own building. 2 years later we had raised £184,000 and took over the whole of our building. We were blessed with pro-bono support from DWP architects and Frankton Hill quantity surveyors (over the next 3 years!!!) and 8 different sketches and 2 consultations later we have made the decision to knock down our old garage and rebuild a purpose designed new building to support our aims of improving the lives of children and young people in Nechells.