THE New Year may have only just begun, but there is no rest for 12-year-old schoolboy Dante Valaydon-Pillay, who continues his 12-month series of charity challenges for Children in Need. 

The dedicated 12-year-old from Raglan, who attends St John's in Tutshill near Chepstow, has just completed his fourth challenge; spending the a day at Newport Foodbank to help sort out and distribute food parcels.

This opportunity rose after Dante met Jon Slocombe (Manager of Newport Foodbank) during the Pride of Gwent awards ceremony at Rodney Parade, Newport where they were recognised for their incredible contributions.

Newport Foodbank had won the Pride of Gwent Charity Award, whilst Dante was named Fundraiser of the Year and crowned the grand overall title of Pride of Gwent.

It was at the awards ceremony that Dante decided to lend a helping hand at Newport Foodbank and include this as one of his charity challenges. 

Dante got involved with charity work for similar reasons to Jon.

Dante was fuelled to aid Children in Need after going through a difficult time himself. At the age of five, Dante's mother was struck down by a series of strokes.

Fortunately, there were kind family and friends on hand to take care of him when his mother was incapacitated.

Having seen his best friend's mother at school foster children who have no parents to care for them made him realise that not all children are as lucky; hence his decision to raise money for the charity ‘Children in Need’.

Jon wanted to give back to society after having a good working life in the dairy industry. As a parishioner of Christchurch, Newport, he became aware of Newport Foodbank. He got involved and went on to become the manager. Jon said: “I do this job because I love it and it's a way of giving back”. 

On January, 5, Dante arrived at Newport Foodbank, where he was warmly greeted by Jon and his team organiser Jason Bellia who works at the Patent Office, Newport on the other four days. He was then introduced to the rest of the Friday team of volunteers: Jennifer, Barbara and Tom. 

The day was one of great learning and experience for the young fundraiser!

Jennifer guided Dante through the Health and Safety regulations and the process of sorting, packing and handing out food parcels.

She originally started working at the Foodbank over eight years ago after her friend asked her at the Christchurch Centre in Malpas, Newport if she’d like to volunteer.

Her children were at school and she had time on her hands so she thought that she'd give it a go... She liked it so much she's still there!

Dante also worked alongside Barbara who had been volunteering for over seven years, in addition to Tom who works at a well-known financial company for four days of the week.

He joined as a volunteer as he normally works alone and is a self dubbed ‘computer buff’.

Welcoming the clients into the Foodbank was Jason who “wanted to do something completely different to his everyday life”. His job was to register each person before handing the request to the waiting volunteers.

Dante helped sort, pack and hand out the bags of food.

First up was Emily who has five children, with one on the way. She was struggling after Christmas and wanted some much-needed food to tide them over. She said: “It's so expensive now and I'm finding it hard to cope. It's my daughter's birthday in a few days and I'm skint. I can't even afford the essentials”.

People were there for all sorts of reasons, from a young 18-year-old girl just out of foster care to a 30-year-old woman who had been sleeping rough after domestic abuse.

For one visitor this marked her first time coming to the Foodbank. 50-year-old, Becky said that she was struggling with the cost of living and other personal reasons. She commented: “I just need some help until my wage comes in, I'm struggling and don't have any food for me and my son”. 

As well as receiving food bags, Jon leant a listening ear and offered advice on where they could look for further help if needed. 

Following the fantastic experience, Dante said: “I just loved doing that! I’d really like to come back in my summer holidays”.

For his fifth Children in Need charity challenge in February, Dante intends to auction some of his own photography and will be sponsored by Shackleton Photographic and Martin's Framing & Gallery both in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire.