“Is this the Sponger family? Missed the surname…”
“Odd family. Kids look brainwashed or held hostage. ”
“Just because you can live on 10 quid a day doesn’t mean you have to… The Walton’s roadshow”
“Call social services!”
“So these 3 kids don’t go to school, live in an unheated van, are fed only porridge and stuff they find in the woods and are forced to cook for strangers. And we are supposed to think that this is marvellous?”
“The parents are obviously not concerned about the childrens’ schooling!!”
“Yep, stick em in the back of a car to stump growth and limit mental exercise. Child abuse at its finest is what this is.”
“They are having to live the lives of their parents and know no different. They are missing out on the experiences schools provide, not to mention the living environment they are being forced into.”
“Strange couple & family…..I think they get money through selling their story.They use up so much fuel…can’t honestly cost a fiver…I think they are weird…..no thought or concern about their children’s future.”
“my concern is do the three children have seatbelts, it didn’t look like they were wearing any to me”
“Hope they have money saved or else old age poverty beckons when they aren’t so strong to move around or forage.”
“Thought only USA 🇺🇸 had these f#@!wits!”
Last week we were on The One Show (you can watch the clip in the video above) and had the previous comments after our appearance and so we just wanted to confirm a few things. We’re not upset by anyone’s responses, we believe that everyone has the right to their opinion, but there was so much more to our story that The One Show didn’t cover so perhaps that’s why people were left with the wrong impression of us?
Before we set off on this journey, we all had the choice as to what we wanted to do with the next chapter of our lives. We sat down and talked about it as a family and laid out all of our options. We could go travelling, maybe around Europe, learn from living life to the fullest and making memories or we could rent a house somewhere, the kids could go to school and join clubs and we could all settle into a conventional lifestyle OR we could do something to make a difference and play our part in creating change. At the end of the day, we chose the final option as a family because we all felt compelled to do something positive – not because we are selfless or saintly, but because we could not sit back and watch so many people struggle with little hope for the future. Gracie was seeing the sheer amount of issues her peers were facing and we all wanted to be part of something that creates a better world and future for everyone.
We planned an epic journey, a challenge to drive round the coastline of the UK in a tiny, unique campervan living on a tenner a day (£5 food – £5 fuel) to raise money for an incredible charity called CatZero transforming the lives of young people and full families. We knew it would be tough, but we were all totally up for it and we all had a role to play. We worked hard to kick-start it, Dad worked his socks off all winter and we sold our car. We then donated all the money we’d save from living on a tenner a day to CatZero (£6000) and set off on our charity challenge. We put everything into the challenge because we believed in its purpose and the way CatZero changes lives and gives people without hope a future.
Our home for our charity challenge – which we named Round The UK On A Tenner A Day – was Mo. Mo is a tiny Morris Traveller campervan that’s one of its kind. It makes everyone smile and is such a catalyst for human connections. We chose to take on our challenge in our Morris instead of a larger vehicle because people’s response to us is usually positive by default and Mo has been the start to so many friendships and meaningful conversations.
Dave is a professional and extremely experienced carpenter and, with Evan’s help, he modified Mo into a functional, comfortable home for our family. Mo is perfectly road safe, MOTed even though it is exempt, fully insured, has been reclassified by the DVLA as a motorcaravan and has three seatbelts in the back to keep us safe and secure in our seats.
Our charity challenge lasted almost nine months and along the way we met people all the time who wanted to support us. All the money we were given was donated to CatZero to help them continue changing lives for the better, even the money people insisted was for us to spend on ourselves. We raised £17,000 for CatZero. The only time in nine months that we spent any of the money we were given for ourselves was when some kindly firemen paid for us to have an ice-cream in Wales and when an elderly man gave us the money for us to have some chips in our favourite chippie in Weston Super Mare.
On a daily basis, people we met or people who found us on social media invited us into their home for a meal or a shower or to do our washing. When we went to thank them, they thanked us for allowing them to be part of what we were doing. We shared our stories and experiences with them and have made friends for life. The same went when we broke down and mechanics helped us on our way.
When someone invited us round for dinner or brought us a bag of shopping, we didn’t carry any money that we’d saved over to the next day. Instead we put it into a separate fund so that we could buy tea making supplies and be hospitable to others or put it towards funding one of CommuniTea events to bring a community together.
As for education – the kids have been invited to do a prestigious TEDx talk at TEDxNorwichED in April to share their experiences and ideas in front of a conference room full of 400 people (mostly educators) and a live online audience of up to 90,000. It can also get millions of views on YouTube afterwards. Norwich is the larger of only two TEDx education events in the world. Gracie was also the youngest attendee of the NATO Engages conference earlier this year where she got to ask the panel of world leaders questions about social change, be interviewed and do an Instagram takeover for NATO and the Atlantic Council.
We’ve also visited, talked at and reported on hundreds of community projects all around the country as we see the incredibly positive solutions they’re creating in their local areas. Gracie wrote posts about them to tell their stories and encourage others to get involved in their communities, Irys captures it with photography and Evan makes short films and videos.
Irys got tours of several universities around the country just by taking the initiative to contact them and show her enthusiasm. Evan has learnt about engines and how to fix them from mechanics all over the UK. All three of the kids have spoken at various schools, scout groups and youth projects around the country.
Everyone we’ve met has had something to teach us, a life lesson or even a practical skill. We’ve met people from every culture, background, generation and walk of life and learnt to see life from a diverse spectrum of perspectives.
We successfully completed our charity challenge in January. It was difficult at times, but in those moments we reminded ourselves of the purpose behind it. However, overall it was a life changing and valuable journey with the positives far outweighing the hard times. We’ve decided to continue because we believe that what we’ve discovered along the way is a powerful tool for change. At the moment, we still fund our day to day living expenses (£10 a day to make it sustainable) and our CommuniTea events and plan to for the foreseeable future. We now want to share what we’ve learnt from all the amazing projects that are transforming their local areas, bring communities together and promote the necessity of human connections.