Christmas Lunches for 175 people!

The Balsam Family Project, laid on a two-course Christmas lunch for 43 families at the Didcot Civic Hall on Saturday 9th December.

Charity trustees, volunteers and staff came together to cook and serve turkey with all the trimmings to around 175 people from Didcot and the surrounding areas. Balsam also teamed up with other local charities and businesses to ensure the families they work with had a day to remember – with Secret Santa Oxfordshire handing out wrapped gifts to all and the Didcot Foodbank ensuring families went home with festive hampers. The cost of providing the hampers was an estimated £2,000-3,000. Bright Horizons Nurseries gave a book to every child.

Alex Walker, Balsam founder and Project Manager, said: “We’re so grateful to our friends at Secret Santa and Bright Horizons for their support and to Rabbits Vehicle Hire for providing much needed transport so we could get the hampers to where they were needed.
“For a charity that aims to bring families – and family members – closer together, nothing could be more rewarding than looking out on a sea of happy faces and watching people enjoy being with and around loved ones at Christmas time.
“We believe in the value of every adult and child and seek to encourage a sense of worth and value that parents can pass on to their own children.”

Didcot Mayor Jackie Billington was amongst the volunteers who offered their services to wait on tables. John Hobbs, lead singer and guitarist with local band The Gangbusters, performed a Christmas set with daughters Julie and Joanne, while a children’s entertainer from Oxford Entertainments ensured the kids had plenty to do, and laugh at.

At the Civic Hall event, certificates were also presented to graduates from Balsam’s own college courses. Single mum Amanda said: “I’m overwhelmed with the kind words said about me and I’ll be volunteering for the charity after I complete my course.”

Alex Walker added: “We currently work with more than 90 families in Oxfordshire and it is so rewarding to see people grow in confidence and flourish. Our belief in the importance of family is at the heart of everything we do.”

Secret Santa Oxfordshire

Secret Santa Oxfordshire is a wonderful local charity (also a winner at the Didcot Business Awards!) run by Charlotte Hughes and has a wide assortment of things available for Balsam Family Project beneficiaries: such as…….
New Moses baskets
Carry cots
New clothes
Kitchen utensils
Baby bath
Loads of books

Balsam families – do get in touch with Charlotte Hughes direct at if you can make use of any of these things…?

Braving the cold and Beautiful music….

Thanks to the Balsam volunteers who braved the cold on a November evening at the Didcot Street Fair and raised £190 for Balsam! Thanks also to all our Sponsors who have donated toys & books to sell:

The Entertainer Toy Shop; W H Smith; Wilko; All Saints Church, Didcot; All Saints Church Chilton; All Saints Church Marcham; Didcot Baptist Church; Didcot Kings Church; Fledgelings Nursery; St Matthews Church, Harwell; St Michaels Church Blewbury

Thank you also to the wonderful The Byrd Chorus for a wonderful concert on November in Marcham church raising £343 for Balsam!


Balsam is a winner!

Balsam was nominated and shortlisted to receive a Didcot First ‘Business & Community Award’ in four categories and we found out recently that we won in two categories! Balsam was awarded Best Volunteer Development and Best Partnership and Collaboration in the community and charity awards and rightly reflects the hard work the Balsam staff put in week in and week out. Well done everyone!

Come and work for Balsam!


We are looking to recruit two new members of staff for Balsam: a Family Liaison Officer (20 hours a week) and Fundraiser (Half time post).

Family Liaison Officer (20 Hours per week)

Understanding and self-motivated Family Liaison Officer with Safe Guarding experience required for a Christian charity offering support to vulnerable and isolated families and their mentors.

Applicant to take a holistic approach to assessing family’s needs that includes the spiritual dimension.

Didcot (Oxon)

£14,000 per annum

Further info Tel 07799894410

Or email

Expressions of interest and C.V by Monday 23rd Oct 17



£28,000 fte pro-rated – half time post

Experienced and self-motivated fundraiser required for Christian charity that supports isolated and vulnerable families. Applicant must develop and implement an engagement plan with both Christian and non-Christian organisations.

Potential for substantial home working.

Didcot (Oxon)

Further info Tel 07799894410

Or email

Expressions of interest and C.V by Friday 24th Nov 17

Summer Celebrations

It was great to see so many people at the Balsam Summer Celebration on Saturday 8th July in Didcot Baptist Church. A word of thanks to supermarkets Tescos & Sainsbury’s for donating £10 vouchers for food for the Celebration and Aldi £30 for cakes.  The bouncy castle was hired from ‘Time to Bounce’ who regularly offer us a discount price for the bouncy castle and ride-on toys.  Teresa Miller, our fantastic face painter regularly offers her services free of charge, and was very popular with adults as well as children!

Didcot’s new Mayor Jackie Billington, came to present certificates to families who’d completed Balsam’s Level 1 ‘Parenting & Home Management’ Course and joined in with craft activities, chatting to parents and lending a hand with serving food and clearing up too.

Easter Celebrations

Balsam’s Easter Celebration was a feast for all! We were very thankful that the Major of Didcot came to support our celebrations and give our certificates for those who have completed the Balsam Family College course. Thanks also to all the volunteers who gave up their time to enable this wonderful party.

Family Fun Day

It was great to see lots of families at the St Edmunds Park Play day on the 24th June! We bounced, we played, we climbed, we chatted! Thanks to all who came……



‘Little Friends’ Group at Didcot Methodist Church

‘Little Friends’ is a welcoming group for babies & under 5’s with their mums, dads, carers….with crafts, toys, fun, Bible storytelling with songs and refreshments.

All welcome and it’s free! 

The dates for this term are 13th September, 11th Oct, 8th November and 13th December all 10.00-11.15am.
Didcot Methodist Church Lounge, The Broadway (opposite Boots)

Do join us and spread the word!


Balsam Update May 2016

Encouraging News!
Early this year it became clear that Balsam needed an injection of finance if it was to remain viable. Thanks to the enormous generosity of all who have given financial support, we now have funds which mean we are secure for the next 12-15 months!  We are so grateful to our faithful friends and supporters who have stood by Balsam, over the last few difficult months, and to those who recently gave time to discuss fundraising options with us, resulting in many interesting suggestions for us to explore.
We are grateful for all that Fiona Scott Brennan has achieved, over the past 8 months, as a paid employee, in her role as Promotions and Fundraising Co-ordinator, and for her continuing to work on a voluntary basis for some time each week. Fiona has been successful in bringing in some great volunteers to join the Balsam team.Now we look forward with excitement to the prospect of three new trustees with an amazing range of skills, experience and insights to contribute to the leadership of the Balsam Family Project.
Balsam Office has a New Home!
On 23 April Balsam Family Project moved from Harwell to new premises at The Annexe, 191 Broadway, Didcot OX11 8RU.  A BIG THANK YOU to Paul Luper (Roxy’s dad) and Roxy Thorp for having our office in their house, rent free, over the last few years. Our move went so smoothly with the help of Paul, Alex, Fiona, Rob and three good men from Ladygrove Church.  Many many thanks to  Tim Sugar from Ridgway Community Church for providing the van, and to Jane and Fiona for cleaning the new office beforehand.  Thanks also to Julie, our new ‘landlady’ for opening her home and blessing Balsam once more with rent free office space.  Finally, thanks and praise to the Lord for how well everything went.  We are grateful to Paul who gave his time to help Balsam set up a network.
Networking with other Organisations
Balsam continues to build links with Doorsteps, OCVA (Oxfordshire Community Voluntary Association), The Children’s Trust Board, and the Local Authority – to work collaboratively to provide families in Oxfordshire with support.
OCVA Award
On Wednesday 11 May Balsam representatives attended the OCVA awards in Oxford.Roxy Thorp, one of our key volunteers, has just been given an award for all her commitment and work with the families Balsam serves.  CONGRATULATIONS Roxy!  Well deserved!  You are such a gift to us all! Roxy has been part of the Balsam family for over five years, actively involved in so many ways – supporting and encouraging families, currently running Family Days and craft activities et al at College Creche, and Office Manager for much of this time.  Roxy is one of those fabulous people who are always there when you need them, ever-ready to do whatever’s needed and doing it well.
 Bagpacking Fundraising
We are so grateful to Sainsbury’s Didcot for allowing us to offer bag packing services to their customers and to the generosity of customers and a GREAT team of Balsam volunteers who helped to raise the FANTASTIC total of £602.08 on 30 April.  The publicity this gives to a small local charity is so valuable, giving us the opportunity to meet families interested in parenting courses, as well as people who have gone on to become regular Balsam supporters or volunteers.
Balsam College News

“Is there another Course following this one?  We’d really like to do that too. It’s been really helpful, full of practical ideas”. (Quote from a participant in Balsam’s NEWEST COURSE – see below:

This term has seen the exciting launch of a new 5 week Refresher/Taster’ Courseat Balsam College for those who have done Level 1 ‘Parenting & Home Management’ Course and Level 2 ‘Personal Growth & Development’ Course’; or new people who want to come along and get a taste of what the Courses are like.  We pray they will then go on to do the other Level Courses.  Currently, there are six people doing this new Course, one of these having rearranged another commitment to come along because she enjoyed the first week so much!  We are grateful for Melanie and Leanne, who have joined the Crecheteam, who ably run this and prepare craft activities related to the theme of the day, for the parents and children to do together, when parents return from their teaching time.

This has followed on from the Level 2 course that ran from January to March and was greatly appreciated by the three who did it.  They asked “Is there another Course following this one?  We’d really like to do that too. It’s been really helpful, full of practical ideas”.  Please pray for sufficient interest to run a second ‘Refresher/Taster’ Course in the second half of term.

Family Days
Venue:  Didcot Methodist Church on Thursday mornings 10 – 11.45 am.
A typical Family Day –  Everyone is warmly welcomed, and then down to the important task of playing!  This could be making the sounds of the animals in the farm or zoo; drinking endless cups of pretend tea in the play kitchen; building an incredible structure with building blocks; making a joyful noise with instruments; listening to a story; parking the cars in the garage; rolling and squashing play doh and much more.There’s usually an activity for parent and child to work on together. Some recent ones have been: making a nest for an Easter chick; colouring, cutting and sticking a Mother’s Day card; decorating bottles and filling them with beads to make music shakers.
Family Days always include lots of chatting – sometimes about last night’s TV, but more often about family, life and parenting.  Recently one of our mum’s was sharing about the problem she was having getting her teenage son to school, and another about her concerns over her sons development. You know at Family Day there will always be someone to talk to about the niggles and issues all parents have – someone to listen and offer support. We try to run Family Days throughout the year, including school holidays, to always give our families the routine and support they need.
New volunteers are always needed and very welcome – to make drinks, chat with adults, read a story, assist with a craft activity or just play with children.  Volunteers arrive at 9.15 to set up the toys, activities and refreshments ready for the families who arrive at 10.00 am; then after a final cuppa (and maybe even a sneaky biscuit!) it’s time to tidy everything away, say goodbye and head home at 11.45 am.  If YOU are interested in joining the team, or just coming along to see what’s going on, please contact Roxy on 07984 641466
There are always lots of opportunities for volunteering with Balsam:
    currently needed to support families who’ve participated in a College Course.  NEXT TRAINING COMING UP SOON  
    Contact: Alex Walker (Project Manager)
    Tel: 07799 894410 email: HELP NEEDED AT COLLEGE OR FAMILY DAYS to:  
    set-up, serve refreshments, chat or help with craft activities – any or all of these skills! 
  • BALSAM FAMILY COLLEGE at Didcot Methodist Church
    Mondays and Tuesdays
    (9.15 am to 2.45 pm)
    Contact: Alex (as above)
  • FAMILY DAYS onThursdays (9.45–11.45 am) at Didcot Methodist 
    Contact: Roxy on 07984 641466