Billy is your average 10 year old lad, he loves his football and loves getting muddy. He’s an avid Bolton Wanderers fan at that, dare I even mention his second team Chelsea, which is much to my distaste. I'd long heard of Billy's work through his family and newspaper articles, there were stories of how he'd 'saved Christmas' for the homeless and how he'd gone into his school collecting clothes for people in need. I had been oblivious to this for some time. I only ever saw Billy at the Bolton match and I spent much of my time winding him and nicking his bob hat to have even known, therefore I felt the need to sit down with him and discuss the work he's done at his tender age.
Billy says he was inspired by a large storm last year, which resulted in him turning to his mother, Angela, and asking if he could do anything to help the homeless. Angela then took to Facebook looking for charities and organisations in Bolton that support the homeless. She quickly came across Hope 4 Homeless UK, an organisation based on Tonge Moor Road, that helps homeless people and those in need in the Bolton and Manchester. Billy isn't shy to say that his mum Angela has also played a role in his work: "my mum said we’ll put it all over Facebook asking for clothes and then we’ll go and give the clothes to the shop and that's what we did".
Since that day, Billy has gone to great lengths to help his friends, as he calls them, stay warm and get a good meal; especially, Ziggy, Terminator, Micky and Stephen. Billy said: "On Tuesday and Friday, I go down to the soup kitchen and I like to help out and I give out food and drinks. I also go to the shop and the donations I get, I give it to the shop". Billy also sings the praises of Jamilah, Billa and the rest of the volunteers at Hope 4 Homeless UK: "they’ve all been there for a long time and I think they give up all their time and they don’t get paid for it, they just volunteer."
I've been down to the Hope 4 Homeless UK street kitchen several times in Bolton and seen the work that they do. Everyone gets clothing, advice on where to seek help and support and a hot meal and drink, usually cooked by the volunteers themselves. What always gets me when going to these sorts of outreach programmes, is the sheer generosity of these people and how week in week out they devote their time to helping others.
Billy's work has inspired family and friends alike, especially his mum Angela and dad Chris: "I'm very proud of him, he's got me and his dad involved now as well, so it’s highlighted not just to us, but to our friends and family as well." Moreover, it has helped to hightlight the homelessness crisis amongst Billy's friends and family: "there’s loads of people who are coming around helping now as well. It’s had a big domino effect." His school have also been extremely supportive of his work with the homeless, when he was in The Bolton News, his teacher put the story up on the white board and got students to read it out.
The youngster has often been described by many as 'the kid who saved Christmas', but why you ask? I'll let Billy tell you: "every year they have a Christmas party at this place, but the lady was on holiday and she couldn’t open the shop, because it was on the day she flew back, I think. And I asked my mum can I do a Christmas party and she went yeah and we asked people on Facebook, then we found one place called All Souls Church. A lot of people came and we had loads of donations and food. We had presents and we had little bags and they’ve got like chocolate bars and bananas and then they all got a Christmas crackers and we gave out soup and drinks and some other stuff. And some of my friends came as well, Liam and Massie." When he mentioned Liam and Massie's names I was quick to ask who they were and it was great to hear he's getting more kids on board: "Massie's 12 and lives next door but one and Liam's 11 and lives just over the road."
It's easy to forget Billy is ten years old when speaking to him, but as we were playing football on the waterlogged Sharples football pitches I saw the excitement and enthusiasm leaping from his innocent eyes, that's the moment I remembered. Billy will soon be 11 years old and he will be going to 'big school' in a few months. He's got a big future ahead of him and there's no questioning that.
Billy's message is simple, do what you can.
You can read more stories like this in the 2nd edition of SHARE.