How growing up without his mum inspired charity founder Mike Davies to help Yorkshire's disadvantaged children
If there is one stand out moment in Mike Davies’ varied life and career, it is receiving his MBE from the Duke of Cambridge.
“Just wonderful,” the entrepreneur and charity founder muses, when he recalls the day, in 2017, that Prince William presented him with the award in recognition of his services to business and disadvantaged children.
“He said to me ‘Mike I want you to do something for me’. Well when the future King of England, says that to you, you say yes sir. So I said tell me what that is and I’ll try and do it. And he said he wanted me to tell everyone in the charity to keep up the good work. I said rest assured I would do that.”
That encounter was nearly five years ago, and the team behind The Principle Trust Children’s Charity seemingly have not taken their foot off the pedal.
Based in Skipton, the charity aims to help improve the quality of life of children from across Yorkshire through the provision of free holidays.
Founded in 2011, it has just marked the end of its first decade and in that time, has over £1m, purchased six holiday homes and provided respite breaks to 3,700 children who are underprivileged or disadvantaged and, since 2018, a further 350 children who have a disability or long-term, life threatening or limiting illness.
“We have facilitated in excess of 4,000 children, primarily in North and West Yorkshire, to have a break that they otherwise may not have had,” Mike reflects. “I look back on ten years and I say wow, but I look forward to the next ten because there’s plenty still to do.”
Mike has captured the charity’s first ten years in a book, The Principle Trust Children’s Charity: Making Memories That Last, which pays tribute to the families the trust has supported and highlights the transformative impact of its work.
The book also acknowledges the charity’s army of dedicated supporters and fundraisers and includes a foreword by Hannah Ingram-Moore, daughter of the late Keighley-born Captain Sir Tom Moore.
“Whatever your age, being able to recharge batteries and totally relax, is vital to everyone’s health and wellbeing,” she says. “Without exception, every child deserves time off in a safe, peaceful and loving environment to have the freedom to think, create and be themselves.”
The book is dedicated to Mike’s mother Lillia Emily Davies, who died of cancer in 1956, when he was aged just five. “I didn’t appreciate it then but when I look back, I realise I must have been one of these underprivileged and disadvantaged children for not being able to grow up with the love and comfort of a mum,” he says.
One of four siblings, the older two of which had left home by the time of his mum’s passing, Mike grew up in a council flat in Battersea in London.
“Life was tough. Money was tight and my dad couldn’t always afford new clothes,” he recalls. “We never really had holidays or outings. We didn’t have a car or a home telephone. We didn’t enjoy an awful lot of the things that we saw other children enjoying.”
After leaving school with no qualifications, Mike, who is now based in Ilkley, joined the police in Liverpool, initially on a cadet training programme and then for two years as a regular member of the force. He later moved into a commercial environment, working for the likes of RHM Foods and Cussons, before launching his first company, Principle Healthcare, in 2002.
Inspired by his own childhood struggles, for some time, the now 71-year-old had considered how he could support vulnerable children and young people. But it wasn’t until his 60th birthday that the foundations for the charity were laid.
Mike approached staff in the businesses he had developed for their suggestions, envisaging the charity to be a form of corporate social responsibility for the firms. But it was with the help of Karl Podmore, who worked in the children and young people’s service at North Yorkshire County Council at the time, that the charity’s vision became clear.
“I had often thought to myself if there is anyway during my lifetime that I would be able to assist children, whether they’ve lost their parents, whether they are in a single parent family, caught up in a poverty, or in a care home or with foster parents, that I would try to help in some way,” Mike says.
“[Karl] helped us focus the mind towards underprivileged and disadvantaged children and what we could do. His message really was that an awful lot of children, whether they live in poverty, are from single parent families, live in care etcetera, really don’t enjoy the benefits of holidays.”
With a group of employees from Principle Healthcare, The Principle Trust Children’s Charity was founded, owning and running two holiday homes in Blackpool.
From those beginnings, the charity now has six getaway homes – three in Blackpool, one in the Ribble Valley and two in Windermere, the latter three adapted to accommodate children with a range of disabilities.
The trust’s remit has also widened; its focus is not just on disadvantaged and unprivileged children but those who are disabled, have life-limiting conditions, or who have experienced poverty, trauma or abuse.
It is now able to provide around 240 weeks of free respite holidays per year, working with local authorities, social services, children’s centres, schools and other charities to identify children and their families or carers who are most in need.
The charity asks in return that those going on the breaks provide feedback on their time away and score, before and after their stays, such factors as their mental and physical health, self esteem, emotional wellbeing, hope, and satisfaction with family life.
“Generally people feel much better for being on a holiday or being on a respite break,” father and grandfather Mike says. “Without exception, the benefits are terrific. The feedback is what motivates us to keep doing what we do.”
One of his hopes for the book is that more people are aware of the charity and what it can offer, as it plans to kickstart its next decade by working with more families in South and East Yorkshire.
Going forward, Mike hopes to develop the experience for those using the charity’s holiday homes, working with communities to fund activities and day trips to support children’s learning and development. And, of course, to keep doing more of the same; helping children to escape their everyday troubles and create happy memories.
“The charity developments, the smiles on faces from underprivileged, disadvantaged and disabled children, make everything worthwhile,” he says.
The book is available to order on Amazon, via the Trust’s website or by emailing [email protected]
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