Lucy’s welcome

On Saturday the 13th of November COCO supporters and friends gathered at the Grand Hotel Gosforth Park for an evening of dancing and entertainment, exquisite food and raising funds for brighter futures. It's been a challenging year for COCO, but we've achieved so much.

Our CEO Lucy's welcome talked about what we've been up to as well as the impact your support and generosity has had on the students and communities we work with during the pandemic. Lucy's speech received such a brilliant reception that we're sharing it here for everyone to enjoy. ✨

Welcome and thank you so much for being here. There aren't as many of us as usual but those of you who are here are dear friends of the charity and we are so grateful to you.

After the past 21 months, I think we are all more grateful for friends, family and loved ones than ever before.

Charity is not just about how much money you raise, it’s about the support that people give you when it really matters and that support enables us to pass on the gift of education, training and finance to those who need it the most.

Most of you will know we gave up our office when the pandemic hit and we have been incredibly blessed to be welcomed into the offices of Williams Ali thanks to Abu, The Common Room, thanks to Liz and right here in the Grand Hotel thanks to Jane.

The Grand have been incredible, not just tonight but also giving us their board room to come together as a team, inviting us to events where we meet people like Aura events and persuade them to make the room look this great!

Back in July, we held our Golf Day at Slaley Hall who are also here tonight. We don’t just hold our event there because of their world-class golf course (although it helps). We actually really love the people that work there and their support doesn’t end when 130 golfers leave their venue with bad heads and embarrassing scores the morning after!

COCO was a lonely place for a while when the team were furloughed but it made me appreciate them more than ever, both as colleagues and as friends. And whether you joined me for a socially distanced march around Jesmond, like Debbie, chatted to me about life over a cocktail like Kerry, came over for a cuppa in the garden, like Sam, took me for a walk on the coast like Chloe, embraced the zoom socials like my Kili family, made me Sunday lunch in the garage (Mum) or poured me a large sherry (Dad) you all played a huge part in keeping COCO functioning when I wasn’t sure we could.

The past few months have seen our dedicated, unpaid, trustees come into their own too. Calm and supportive in a crisis (unlike their CEO at times), our Chairman Steve Cram, Co-Founder Jim Panton (who stepped down this year but will never truly leave us) and their colleagues, Carsten, Katherine, Christine and new recruit Rebecca who are all here tonight to show their support. This group of volunteers have given so much guidance over the past few months but also entrusted the team and I to carry out our mission in East Africa in new ways.

The COCO Team

Charity is all about relationships and tonight is a great opportunity for us to strengthen those. So please talk to us, introduce yourself to Freya, our new Fundraisier or Rosie, the glue that keeps us together! Don’t worry too much about Matt, he is leaving us for big adventures at the end of the month. Just kidding, that man has been a lifeline for COCO and his crazy adventure ideas have left their mark on our fundraising calendar.