Throughout Quarter 3 a number of young people aged 13-19 have engaged with community action / volunteering programmes. Members of Y Stay In (YSI), our Central Wednesday night provision, joined other young people on the National Citizenship Service (NCS) programme. Having attended a residential experience in the Lake District, including hiking, raft building, orienteering and teamwork activities, they embarked on a 30 hour volunteer experience. Whilst the NCS programme is funded via central government it is important to highlight the opportunity it gave some of our young people engaged with the central area 13-19 programme, and how it helped build on their skills and knowledge base to carry forward into other aspects of their lives. Including becoming volunteers under the YMCA umbrella.
The volunteering opportunities taken up were:
- Garden tidy and working with trees and bushes – Utilising the expertise of local business Twiggs.
- Bird box building and sighting – In conjunction with The Carers Garden
- Rucksack project – Local homeless charity that seeks to stuff rucksacks with clothing for the homeless.
The NCS programme, in particular the volunteering on community initiatives section, offered up an arena for the young people to share their ideas and knowledge gained from their experiences with their peers. This lead to other young people, specifically members of YSI, expressing an interest in doing something similar. Throughout December, YSI members sorted donated clothes and rucksacks for the locally based Rucksack Project. This meant some of the donated clothes had to be washed and dried, sorted into gender specific clothes and sizes, then stuffed into Rucksacks to be delivered to a central point that then distributes to homeless people. The YMCA and the Rucksack project enjoy an ongoing relationship which means as clothes are donated, young people take time out of their usual YSI activity in order to sort and stuff rucksacks.
As part of ‘I Will’ week, 8 young people from our 13-19 programme engaged in bird box building. A noisy activity if carried out indoors, however very worthwhile. It gave staff opportunity to speak with young people about ‘what volunteering means’ and how young people can affect change in their wider communities, often by simple deeds. Out of these conversations further ideas were discussed that we hope to take forward into 2017, for example, sighting the bird boxes at an identified older persons’ home in Gilroyd. Visiting older people for a chat and cup of tea, perhaps even offering hand massage as a means of building relationships between the age groups.
Lottie has been a member of YSI since 2015, a quieter member who experiences certain mobility and educational needs. Lottie often sits on the periphery of her peers conversations and contributes only when she feels comfortable depending on the dynamic of the group. Lottie can be encouraged to engage in certain activities on occasion, and was an ideal candidate for the NCS programme.
On completing the programme Lottie was clearly proud of her achievements and enjoyed sharing her experiences with her peers. Lottie was observed ‘holding court’ and being at the centre of casual conversations within the YSI sessions, where she once might have hovered on the periphery, there was a new confidence and a wider smile.
Lotties’ enthusiasm was tangible, when opening discussions about volunteering and exploring ideas with the wider YSI membership she offered real words relating to her real life experience, her peers were clearly encouraged and now form part of our volunteer group within the 13-19 provision. Our hope is that Lottie will continue to embrace challenging opportunities and become a role model for similar young people, whilst continuing to grow in confidence and maintain her position as a valuable member of YSI and peer supporter.
Youth Worker: Tell us what you thought of NCS.
Lottie: It was EPIC!… I loved raft building on the residential, we had a water fight but I do love water!
YW: Tell us more about the community volunteering aspect.
Lottie: I liked the practical side of volunteering in the carers’ garden, I’m a hands on person. I wasn’t too keen on the writing side of things, like writing recordings of what we learnt. It was good to be trusted to get on with things, it meant I felt independent.
YW: Why do you think this kind of thing is worthwhile?
Lottie: The work we did in the carers’ garden means that it is a more enjoyable place for the people that use it… very worthwhile.
YW: What did you personally gain from NCS?
Lottie: I learnt different skills about gardening, I felt I could do stuff on my own, my confidence got bigger.
YW: Have you grown in confidence since being a member of YSI and being part of the NCS programme?
Lottie: Er… yes!
YW: Can you give us an example?
Lottie: When I first came to Y Stay In on Wednesday nights I wouldn’t talk to anyone that I didn’t know, now I feel ok about it.
YW: Do you enjoy being part of other volunteering opportunities, i.e. The Rucksack project?
Lottie: Yes, I was a bit scared ‘cos I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m fine now, I like volunteering.
YW: How would you encourage other young people to get involved?
Lottie: Don’t be scared and have a go, I could support them if they’re scared.