British TV and film star Lennie James is pledging to fundraise £50,000 for Barnardo’s as part of a new appeal to help support care leavers, the children’s charity has announced.
Lennie, best known for his roles in Line of Duty and The Walking Dead, is becoming Barnardo’s first Ambassador to help represent children who are in and leaving care.
The actor went into care aged 10, along with his older brother, when their mother died. They spent time in a children’s home and were later fostered, growing up in Tooting, South London.
The star, who appeared in movies Snatch and Blade Runner 2049, is currently in the UK filming the second series of smash hit gritty drama series Save Me 2 in South East London. He took time out today to visit Barnardo’s YouthBuild Academy in Lewisham, where he met care leavers learning construction skills.
This evening Lennie will be talking about his life and explaining the reasons for becoming an Ambassador at an ‘In Conversation With’ event at the Bvlgari Hotel in Knightsbridge.
Barnardo’s is about to launch an ambitious fundraising campaign, aiming to raise funds over the next three years to support young people leaving care. Lennie and his wife Giselle have chosen to support the campaign by setting up their own fund named after Lennie’s birth and foster mums Phyllis and Pam which will aim to raise £50,000 in its first year for Barnardo’s Positive Futures appeal.
“I’m honoured to become Barnardo’s first Children In and Leaving Care Ambassador.
“The fear and vulnerability of going into care is etched in my memory. What made the difference was the support of those who looked after me and helped shape who I am today. Without doubt care leavers have challenges to overcome, but a child’s future doesn’t have to be defined by their past.
“I was lucky to become an actor – if children have a stable and loving experience while in care, and then get the right support when they leave the system, they can go on to achieve and have fulfilling lives. I passionately believe this, which is why I am looking forward to highlighting and supporting the work of Barnardo’s. My fund is named after my mother Phyllis and my foster mother Pam. In different ways they both gave me life.”
Care leaver Callum Nicholas , 20, from Beckenham, said:
“It was great to meet Lennie. YouthBuild Academy has been a brilliant programme for me, my colleagues and for the community in my local area. It’s been great that Barnardo’s has provided this opportunity. As a young person who has grown up in care, I know it’s not always easy to access education and training, which is why YouthBuild Academy can make such a big difference.”
Currently around 10,000 children leave the care system every year without the support that most young people take for granted, such as advice, emotional and financial support from parents and a family home. In total there are around 40,000 care leavers aged 17-21 in the UK.
Barnardo’s Chief Executive, Javed Khan said:
“Young people leaving the care system have often experienced trauma such as bereavement, neglect or abuse, and many face additional challenges when it comes to education, employment and training. These vulnerable young people are also at greater risk of poverty and homelessness, and are more likely to struggle with isolation and mental health issues.
“At Barnardo’s we believe that with the right support all young people can achieve a positive future. But we rely on the generosity of supporters like Lennie and Giselle so we can provide the services care leavers need. We are delighted to welcome Lennie on board as a Barnardo’s Ambassador, and look forward to working with him to raise awareness of this important issue.”