NR5 charity founder bids a fond farewell after 22 years

Staff at Future Education boding farewell to Sonia.

Staff at Future Education have been boding farewell to Sonia after 22 years. - Credit: Future Projects

A charity founded in NR5 to help disadvantaged people in the area has waved goodbye to its co-founder after 22 years of service.  

Sonia Bush, along with her friend Dawn Jackson started the charity Future Projects, known back in 2000 as the NR5 Project. 

Sonia said: "Before the NR5 Project was born I had set up a couple of youth clubs and they were going down really well.  

Pictured: Daniel, Mike and Sonia outside Future Education.

Sonia hopes that the work she began continues to be bigger and better. Pictured: Daniel, Mike and Sonia outside Future Education. - Credit: Future Projects

“I realised that I had a knack for connecting with young people, so I really wanted to work to provide something for them within the area.” 

The government released a large amount of funding to go towards the regeneration of deprived areas, so Sonia and Dawn came together to plan out their project.  

“We wrote an application and that’s how our charity was born," Sonia added.  

At first the group occupied the Spinney - a famous building to people in the area where generations learned to swim - where the first Future Projects school would begin to take place.  

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“All the students at Earlham High School who were close to exclusion would come into the Spinney and we would teach them there but in different ways like activities and days out," Sonia said.  

Future Education School supports young people who have been removed from mainstream education. 

Future Education School supports young people who have been removed from mainstream education. - Credit: Mark Hewlett

Future Projects was given more funding and Sonia and Dawn then bought a house in Motem Road, which is still used today as their main base and the school is run from the premises as well.  

“This was my main part of the project, setting up the school, providing a school for young people that just didn’t get on well with mainstream school," Sonia added.

“It was always hard seeing people with poor education, from a deprived background who had been offered no support.  

“I made it my mission to work with them on their grades as well as working on their self-esteem and social skills.”

Future Projects have since branched out and now run many projects and initiatives in the area, such as Future Radio, Future Support and Future Education.  

Sonia Bush with Chair of Trustees, Mike Stonard and Chief Executive Officer of Future Projects, Daniel Childerhouse 

The charity has been working to teach young people who have not got on well with mainstream school. Sonia Bush with Chair of Trustees, Mike Stonard and Chief Executive Officer of Future Projects, Daniel Childerhouse - Credit: Future Projects

“Many people in the area don’t realise what they can achieve, the kind of projects we have been able to offer helps people to take the risks and make changes to be better because they are supported in doing that.” Sonia added.  

But Sonia has seen changes in the area which she is not happy about.  

“There used to be so much for young people in the area, especially in school holidays. We would take them on days out and it would only cost around £1 each," she said.   

“During term time we would run football clubs, arts and crafts, youth clubs and other projects.  

“Since that money ran out though, there are only the streets and the odd parks for young people in the area.” 

Sonia hopes in the future there will be the opportunity to once again offer young people more activities.  

She added: “There is a lot to be done to ensure young people are enriched in these areas all year round.” 

Though Sonia has played a huge part in the outreach in these areas and her legacy continues in the NR5 charitable empire she has helped to build.  

The Baseline Centre on Knowland Grove, the hub of Future Support

The Baseline Centre on Knowland Grove, the hub of Future Support - Credit: Future Support

“I am so lucky that the staff has been so dedicated, I’ve learnt as much from the young people as they have heard from me," she said.

“I hope the charity continues to reach out to more people and go on stronger and better.” 

Sonia plans to still be part of the charity on a part-time basis but after 22 years she would like to spend more time with her family.  

Chairman of trustees, Mike Stonard, said: “Sonia is an extremely inspirational woman.  

“Over 22 years she was pivotal in growing the charity from nothing.  

“There are thousands of people out there whose lives have changed for the better thanks to her.  

“The board of trustees are incredibly grateful for everything she has done and we wish her well in the future.”