Helena Meineck is the first winner of the cash prize and title of the UK’s Children’s Champion – an award all about giving early years staff the recognition they deserve.
The announcement is accompanied by the release of a page celebrating all 650 entrants – 650 stories to celebrate the vital and skilled work that goes into educating and caring for our youngest children.
Helena Meineck manages All Saints Pre-School, an extraordinary pack away preschool in Exmouth that operates out of a Church hall. She’ll win £5,000, a year’s access to Famly’s premium software for her setting, and a whole host of amazing prizes from our partners.
On the winner announcement, Famly’s Head of Content Matt Arnerich said:
“We’re over the moon to give our first award to an unsung hero like Helena. Looking back, our criteria reads like it was made for Helena’s story. She’s deeply embedded in her community, running a multilingual setting and celebrating all the cultures in her area. She was the calm amongst the storm in the pandemic – calling every child weekly, supporting parents with activities, and delivering food parcels to those children missing out on their hot meal. And, most importantly, she puts the children first. We could imagine just what a joy it must be to be a young child in Helena’s care. Her relentless focus on every unique child is what the Early Years is all about.”
In the live announcement of her win, Helena said:
“For me to be in the top ten was just the best, it was just amazing. And then I didn’t think any more of it, because I’d read about the other people and thought I didn’t stand a chance. You can’t stand still in the Early Years – every child is different. It’s our job to adapt to them and understand what they want and what makes them happy, what makes them laugh, you know. And learn! A happy child is a fantastic learner.
“I hadn’t thought of the prize money because I didn’t think I’d ever win – I suppose it’s a bit like winning the lottery for me. I haven’t had a pay rise in the last five years, I haven’t had my holiday pay, because I need to keep my preschool open because my staff need to be paid – they’re my biggest and most important resource. I’ve got to look after them first.
“When you do my job – you don’t expect anything back. For me what I get back is when I go into preschool and those children smile at you or they come and they give you a hug. I’ve got little children who come and say I love you. You can’t ask for anything more.”
Famly CEO Anders Laustsen said:
“One of the aims of this award was to highlight the passion and care of those working in EY, and the enormous skill and professionalism required to educate our youngest. With more than 2,000 providers choosing to use Famly as their sidekick in settings, we’ve got a part to play in celebrating the dedication it takes to be an EY professional.
“Helena is reflective, highly skilled, and uses her knowledge to raise the level of her staff and the early years community around her. We’re unbelievably proud to call her our first Famly Children’s Champion.”
On the launch of the full 650+ story page, Matt said:
“The baseline in these stories is astounding. Practitioners spend their own money, deliver food and activity parcels and work deeply within communities. That came up in hundreds of nominations.
That we had to work so hard to find and define what stood out to find 10 finalists shows what a staggering bunch of people make up this sector – and what a farce it is that they don’t get the respect or financial support they deserve. They are selfless. They are hardworking. They are talented. They are deeply caring professionals – and they deserve so much better.
We hope that by sharing these stories, we might be able to provide the human proof that isn’t there in the numbers, and maybe, just maybe, help turn the wheels of change.”