A Message from Jenifer Cameron
December is that thoughtful time when we look back and reflect. Personally I prefer January when we look forward with excitement but this year, of all years, looking back helps us understand ourselves, our priorities and how we’ve coped with an extraordinary time.
This time last year another lockdown was looming and here we are again with mixed messages but the possibility of further lockdowns is always with us even while we try for life as normal. We’re no longer surprised by changing arrangements or covid cancellations and there is a general air of weary acceptance.
I think weariness has been a theme of the year along with uncertainty. It takes a huge amount of energy and resilience to deal with the constant changes to rules and restrictions we faced in the first half of this year so we’ve been drained of energy. We then entered a phase of frantically paced return to a kind of normal operation and delivery just with fewer team members and the constant, nagging worry of interruptions, changes and cancellations. It is no wonder that so many people have been weary.
Yet here we are, not quite at the gates of the year, not just still standing but looking back on months’ of achievement across all of our programmes and activities. Thousands of young people have enjoyed and benefited from their time with us. Our big achievement for 2021 has been opening The Junction, our new youth centre in High Wycombe which has added to our wide range of youth provision. The Junction is open 7 days a week, is a drop in centre, offers a wide range of recreational opportunities alongside structured sessions and our important counselling and crisis support services. Already, after a few short months, hundreds of young people are accessing The Junction and enjoying all it has to offer.
The Junction is an outstanding example of partnership working as we work with Buckinghamshire Council’s Library Department. I never cease to be amazed at the vision and positive thought which enabled a youth centre within a library building. Other partnerships flourish too with a wide variety of companies and organisations. I’m grateful to all of the partner charities we work with giving young NCS participants a chance to learn about all of the many organisations operating in their local areas. It’s been great working with Buckinghamshire Culture bringing new and exciting opportunities for our young people to learn about, and participate in, other organisations and new projects.
And so, with our partners, friends and the very generous supporters so crucial to all we do, we look forward to 2022 with renewed energy and optimism having learnt that we can cope with even the most difficult times.
Have a very Happy Christmas and an excellent New Year.
In November we had 843 encounters with over 200 individual young people accessing the centre. We are seeing consistently high numbers going into December with some session welcoming over 50 young people in The Junction.
Last month we launched a new 4 week music production workshop with “Relatable Rolemodels” which was a massive hit with the young people. Across 4 sessions the young people learned how to produce music alongside producers getting to record some of their own music they had written which brought their ideas to life.
One young person said “I can’t believe I got to record my own music that I wrote and got to hear my lyrics come to life. I wish we could have this open to use every single day I wouldn’t leave.” And “This has increased my confidence a lot, I used to be shy and not want to spit (Rap/sing) in front of others. This is the first time I have spit (Rap/sing) in front of others”.
Over the 4 sessions the project engaged 45 individual young people and over 140 encounters. We have seen a huge increase in new young people accessing the centre who engage through the music workshops.
A further project we launched in November was our photography workshops run by Lewis in partnership with Bucks Culture. Lewis ran a photography challenge where the young people went around The Junction capturing multiple photos on digital cameras.
Another young person commented “I am so happy I came tonight as I love photography and don’t really get a chance to do it. I will be here every week.”
The young people are looking forward to the coming weeks as the project develops. Watch this space as there is much more to come.
Counselling @ The Junction
Hannah* has been using our counselling service for over 2 months and believes that it has helped her to talk about her emotions in a confidential and safe environment. Hannah says that the counselling sessions helped her to reflect and move forward with her life. She added that counselling has helped her identify her strengths and weaknesses where she developed strategies to improve her weaknesses and maintain strengths. Hannah has been very active in her attendance on weekly basis which helped her to keep moving forward towards her counselling goals. Throughout the counselling sessions, we explored practical options and alternatives to suit Hannah’s own needs. Hannah also feels that she started connecting more with her emotions and being honest with herself, which helped her to improve communication with loved ones and friends.
* Name has been changed to maintain confidentiality
A message from our Trustee – Milly Soames
There weren’t many hot days I can recall in the summer of 2021 but on one of them I was invited by the NCS leaders to Aylesbury to take part in the ‘Lion’s Den’. This is a highlight of being a Trustee at Action4Youth. It’s a chance to interact with the young people who are working their way through the National Citizen Service programme. A ‘Lion’ has the privilege of listening and learning to each group as they present what they have learnt about a charity during social action week and their plans to raise money for it. The young people are divided into ‘waves’, they come from different schools have a wide range of abilities and learn about working as a team and supporting each other. I defy anyone not to come away from the experience ‘roaring’ with pride for the young who signup for NCS and who get to work with the amazing A4Y Team Leaders.
Another evening confirmed for me why time spent preparing for an A4Y Trustees meeting and attending them is so very worthwhile was a visit to the newly opened youth club in the centre of High Wycombe, The Junction. A boxing class was taking place with male and females taking it in turn to work out with a trainer and in a quiet corner a group of three young people were chatting. A safe space with a whole range of activities, open seven days a week. So important after this year when social interaction has been subject to various rules and constraints that The Junction is up and running.
A massive thank you to all the staff and volunteers at Action4Youth and my fellow Trustees. It is a privilege to be part of the team and to encourage and support young people living in Buckinghamshire and Milton Keynes to be ambitious and fulfil their potential and to be their very best.
This year, the NCS programme has been as successful as ever, despite the challenges posed by no residential and changing restrictions! We have worked with 968 young people, with 801 completing our Summer programmes across Buckinghamshire, Slough and Milton Keynes. We have just finished our last Autumn NCS programme, with 167 young people joining us over five different bespoke waves, which took place in partnership with different schools in the area, including Pebble Brook, Alfriston, Stony Dean, Bucks UTC and most recently Misbourne School in Great Missenden. We enjoyed lots of exciting new activities on our last programme, including GoApe, snowboarding, skiing and the ringo slide. Thank you to all of the young people that make NCS so enjoyable, to all of our charity partners and to all of our great staff that make the programme so valuable. We can’t wait to finally be on residentials again in Summer 2022!
A4Y Programmes – Emily Davis
From challenge to triumph, what a year! 2021 started with a full lockdown and many adaptations to our usual delivery but we have finished the year with huge successes across all of our programmes.
We have opened our brand new multi service youth centre in High Wycombe, The Junction, open 7 days a week, which has already seen hundreds of young people come through the doors.
Our staff team has rebuilt post covid and we have welcomed 7 new staff to the programmes team over the course of the year, and have a new mentor joining us immediately after Christmas as well. Jasmine has been enjoying her maternity leave and our youngest staff recruit, Arlo, has been to visit and been learning all about NCS already.
A huge thank you to all of the A4Y staff and their efforts in a difficult year and happy holidays to all!
The Inspiration Programme
Last month, we had our very first session at Lindengate as part of our Health and wellbeing pillar. The visit gave the group of 6th Formers the opportunity to explore the benefits outdoor space and gardening have on our mental health and wellbeing. The whole group got involved in planting apple trees in the new orchard area at Lindengate supported by the volunteer team. They moved onto clearing a scrub area to allow for the growth of the hedge plants hidden amongst the grasses and weeds.
The group really enjoyed the experience and it was good to see young people getting actively involved in something most had never experienced before. It has inspired some to think about their own gardens and others to carry on volunteering.
We will certainly be going back again with more of our young people. A huge thank you to the Lindengate team for facilitating the session. https://www.lindengate.org.uk/about-lindengate/
We have had a busy month at Caldecotte as the winter sets in and the winter jackets and gloves come out.
Our instructors have delivered some fantastic sessions to a large MK College group & various NCS cohorts this month. To keep the participants engaged & warm, we expanded our delivery to Big Rock indoor climbing gym for the large NCS groups brought in. This offered a mix of the fantastic activities at Caldecotte – as well as challenging them on a high indoor wall. We were very happy to see the return of our technical advisor Martyn Frost, as an instructor for these groups.
Our Office Team have also had a busy month, working hard to implement our new CRM system Cinolla. Cinolla is a much smarter CRM system, which will massively improve our processes & customer care. The new CRM system will help the team at Caldecotte reach our ‘green’ targets, as we no longer require a part paper-based bookings system.
Tesco Community Grants Scheme – In Store Vote
Please remember to vote for Action4Youth if you are visiting Tesco stores around High Wycombe, Bourne End, Stokenchurch or Leighton Buzzard before the end of the year.
We are also thrilled to receive confirmation of our second grant application. Action4Youth has been put forward to the customer vote in stores around Aylesbury and Milton Keynes from the 1st Jan – 31st March.
Winter HAF 2021
We are thrilled to announce that we will be facilitating HAF (holiday activity and food programme) in High Wycombe, Aylesbury, Buckingham and Milton Keynes this December.
High Wycombe will run from Saturday 18th – Thursday 23rd December
Milton Keynes, Aylesbury & Buckingham will run from Monday 20th – Thursday 23rd December
Cooking, Wreath making , Christmas films, FIFA challenges, Kickboxing & much more!
Employee of the Month
We’d like to congratulate Rebecca Fillingham & Tom Gratton for winning employee of the month in November. Rebecca was nominated for being a super supportive manager and always getting the balance right between giving enough guidance and letting us work on our own projects.
Tom was nominated for directly contributing to the good feedback we have received from our recent residential stays.
Congratulations Rebecca & Tom!
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