Leeds boy sleeping in bug-infested mattress impressed instructor to assist 1000’s of youngsters in poverty

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A Leeds teacher was inspired to start a charity to help poor children and families after discovering that a young boy in her class was sleeping on a bed full of bedbugs.

Bex Wilson had been working as a teacher at a school in Leeds when she was worried about a boy in her class who kept falling asleep and scratching his stomach.

She soon found out that the boy had slept in a bed full of bedbugs because his family couldn’t afford to buy him a new one. With money from her own pocket, she bought him and his siblings as replacement beds.

When Bex realized that there were many other children in Leeds through no fault of his own, he decided to found Zarach – a charity that provides beds and basic food for children in poverty.

Since the charity started almost three years ago, the team has provided 1,000 beds and basic groceries for kids across town – helping families get back on their feet.

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Tracey Parle, 56, who works as a volunteer coordinator at the charity, told Leeds Live: “When Bex found that the boy in her class did not have a suitable bed and his bed was full of bed bugs, she wanted to do something to help .

“He didn’t sleep well and couldn’t go to school, so Bex tried everywhere to get him a bed – but there was nowhere he could go to get this boy a bed.

“So instead she bought him a bed out of her own pocket and delivered it to him. Then she realized he had a sibling – and there was no way she could buy them one.

“Six months later, the children’s mother had helped Bex, saved and saved in order to repay her.

“Bex said she didn’t want the money back, but the mother said, ‘You might run into another child who needs a bed’.

Zarach shared a picture of a child’s bare bedroom

“And when the mother said that, Bex triggered a thought that there must be so many other children in a similar situation.”

Tragically, Bex’s instincts were right – a recent report found that 24 percent of Leeds children lived in poverty from 2019 to 2020.

Many LeedsLive readers were shocked and saddened when we reported a “haunting” picture of a child’s bare bedroom that Zarach had shared and felt compelled to help.

So we set up a fundraiser where all donations go to Zarach. If you would like to donate, please click here.

Tracey – who said 30 percent of the families they help are the ones fleeing domestic violence – said, “I think people will be shocked by the poverty on their doorstep.

“Sometimes we live in the comfort of our own surroundings and don’t always come into contact with families who have problems.

“There is more talk in the media these days about what raised awareness and helped families talk about food poverty.

“In the past they may have been too ashamed to ask for help, but now they talk more.

“Even so, I still think people would be shocked by how much it happened.”

Bex was determined to help other children and registered Zarach as a charity in August 2018.

She has helped thousands of children across Leeds access food and sleep well.

Tracey, Bex’s aunt, said, “Since Bex is Bex, she knew she wanted to do something to help.

“Most of our recommendations come from schools – and everyone knows the need to break the cycle of poverty education.

Bex Wilson and Julie Pickering deliver beds

“So we deliver the beds, grocery packages, and the basics for the family. In return, we ask the school to keep a small report on the improvements the child is making – such as punctuality, attendance and commitment.

“But it’s much more than just the bed – usually a bed is just the beginning of the process for families. We provide the bed and then work with the families to help them improve their own situation.

“Whether that directs them to other agencies, encourages them to join support groups, or gives them the confidence and self-esteem to have big dreams and aspirations, we try to help the family wherever we can.”

And last Friday, the charity reached a milestone – it delivered 1,000 beds to 1,000 children across town.

“It’s a double-edged sword because 1,000 children were in need, but now we know 1,000 children are sleeping in comfortable beds,” said Tracey.

“And that’s 1,000 families that we have helped improve their lives. We see this as a celebration. “

Tracey added, “It wouldn’t have been possible without Bex – she has an incredible passion and drive that is just contagious and she just wants to help as many children as possible.”

Tracey, who moved to Harehills when she was 11, said she felt “poor” and felt differently because her own childhood family was not as financially privileged as her peers.

“I was lucky because I was very loved and I was pretty good at school so I was okay,” she said.

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“But I know that education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty. And without a good night’s sleep in a real comfortable bed, children cannot really get involved in school. It is therefore important that people can help us keep giving these children what they need.

“People can help us with a donation – whether it’s a one-time donation or a monthly donation of £ 12.50 per month that would help pay for a child’s bed bundle for over a year.

“Or when you buy items from The Giving Machine, some of the money will be donated to us.

“And if we’re looking for more volunteers, it would be great to have people help with the delivery of the groceries and beds.”

She added, “You can also help by raising awareness and liking and sharing our social media posts.”

LeedsLive started a fundraiser for the same reason. All donations go to Zarach.

If you would like to donate, please do so here.

If you’re in a similar situation and want to share your story, contact helen.whitehouse01@reachplc.com.

To learn more about Zarach, visit the website here:

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