A Message from our CEO Jenifer Cameron
I’m writing this during National Trustees’ Week so my thoughts are firmly on charity boards. I often hear from CEOs about their difficult relationship with their board; about trustees setting impossible goals, being involved inappropriately in operational matters and generally making life difficult for the executive team.
From my own experience I’ve seen good and bad boards. I remember one board which consisted of five elderly ladies and clearly remember one meeting when three of them snored gently throughout. That was a shining example of a disengaged board.
For a while, quite a short while, I worked for a CEO whose approach to the board was to “do first and tell later” so very effectively disrespecting the board and making it impossible for them to fulfill their obligations. So, problems can come from either side. Essentially, we are talking about a relationship so inevitably it takes both sides to make it work.
In my six years at Action4Youth I’ve had the great good fortune to work closely with two excellent and committed chairs in Ken Birkby and David Teasdale and I am confident that our governance processes are appropriate and function well. We have benefitted from external reviews of our Board and its operation and that fresh insight is invaluable in addressing weaknesses or fine tuning an already effective board. It is a practice I’d strongly recommend to all organisations as it is very easy to slip into a way of working which may not be optimum for all involved.
At the moment we at A4Y are looking to strengthen our board by recruiting new trustees so if you are interested, please email [email protected]
Feedback from young people
We know young people well. All our programmes provide valuable insight into their lives and most importantly what interventions will work so young people can thrive. On World Smile Day, hearing young people telling us why they loved A4Y put a huge smile on our faces, here’s a few we thought we would share:
“My time with Action4youth has helped me build my conference and learn important skills needed for work””
“Action4youth allowed me to be myself and understand that’s its ok”
“Action4Youth has helped me develop leadership skills”
“My time at Action4youth has been decent, every time I’m not feeling 100% I can get advice and understand a way forward”
“I did my DofE with Action4youth and whilst it gave me this incredible thing for my c.v. and something to talk about in interviews, it gave me so much confidence and helped me with communicating with people and working as a team and build friendships that will last a lifetime”
“I like Action4Youth because since I’ve come here I’ve been able to make stronger bonds, speak to people I didn’t speak to before. The staff are amazing. They have made me feel welcome. I just want to say a big thank you, Action4youth”
“Counselling is helpful, very eye-opening as there is a lot I didn’t know was not normal if I hadn’t come to counselling. It is a good experience and an extra person to talk to. It is helping to improve on my goals and coping mechanisms. It is great.”
“Action4Youth will stay with me forever”
“When I was there [NCS programme] it was the best thing in the world”
The Caldecotte Xperience
Schools have been telling us that with so much focus on the rising cost of living, parents are favouring more affordable local centres with economical day trips. Most worryingly, teachers are really seeing the impact of the pandemic now playing out in the classroom. Wellbeing is a primary concern.
This is where Caldecotte comes into its own, helping minimise the long-term impact on wellbeing. One teacher said, “we couldn’t wait to get here today; we know this group just need to get here and let it all out”.
Nearly 2000 young people have visited Caldecotte this month, ranging from year 3 right through to year 12. This month’s top 3 activity choices were caving, high ropes and canoeing but don’t think it’s all just about fun there’s some serious learning going on. Young people were facing their fears, testing out limits, negotiating solutions and building resilience. It’s been lovely to see young people grow in confidence and self-belief as they realise what they can do.
It’s particularly rewarding supporting young people who have or are at risk of exclusion, seeing how being outdoors, away from screens and with the complex challenges the activities create, help build empathy, mutual respect, and more acceptance of both peers and adults.
A senior football academy stayed with us for a few nights, and everyone quickly realised the whole schedule needed to be thrown up in the air. For this group, it wasn’t the activities that were important, but having the time away from other pressures to just ‘be’. They enjoyed just chilling, the independence of getting breakfast and structuring their days their way. Having self-organised fun kickabouts meant they could bond as a team and get to know more about each other. Their group leader told us ‘It’s a valuable lesson that the most important resource is time and the right kind of space”.
On 1st November we welcomed John Macilwraith, the new Corporate Director of Children’s Services at Buckinghamshire Council, for a visit. John used to be a youth worker, so it was great to share reflections on the impact outdoor education can have on a child’s life.
We would like to thank our strategic partners NHBC who kindly volunteered for 2 days building a brand-new fire pit and pizza oven area which we know young people will love.
Over 50 young people took part in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) session and enjoyed building straw towers. This is great way to have fun while learning key skills in maths, along with developing leadership and negotiating skills. These sessions had lots of laughter, but it also gave our youth workers the chance to break down some barriers and talk about how The Junction can be that safe, warm place to come over winter.
Over 700 young people visited the Junction last month, and we’re listening all the time; the everyday conversations between youth workers and young people helps understand their view of the world. It also promotes the core values of inclusion, diversity, honesty, respect, and we know this has a real sense of optimism for young people. Drop-in youth centres are highly valued by young people, we’ve been really humbled that some make the effort of travelling quite a distance to attend every day of the week. It’s not just the activities on offer that generate transferable skills, but also the bonds with trusted adults offering a consistent safe place and a listening non-judgmental ear have a lasting impact.
We love inspiring young people to be inspiring young people. The new timetable developed with young people is proving to be a success. The ‘Sunday Salon’ was the creation of two remarkable young women. They are thoroughly enjoying seeing their idea come to fruition. They are also realising how much hard work goes into planning a business. One of the girls said, “I can’t believe there’s so much to think about, they better turn up after we’ve done all this!”. They organised and ran pampering, nail painting and eyelashes sessions. Their approach to customer care has been fascinating to watch!
Next month we’ll be welcoming a new boxing coach – great for letting off steam, improving health and fitness, but also developing language and numeracy skills.
The Inspiration Programme
It’s great to be working with our first Northamptonshire school. 24 year 9 students from Cottesloe School (Claire to check) were excited to start their journey of broadening horizons, thinking and experience. They particularly looked forward to the visits planned under the Arts and Culture Pillar.
Initially students were under the impression that the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery might be boring but soon changed their minds as we got through the doors, especially on discovering an exhibition of trainers! This sparked brilliant conversations around how trainers were linked to Art and Culture, and careers within linked industries. Topics discussed were fashion, design, technology, manufacturing, distribution, collections, legacy, health and wellbeing and environmental impact. Everyone seems to be very excited about the Rockingham Castle trip planned before the Christmas Break, as the museum conversations with the class showed how much more there is than meets the eye and how judgements can be so wrong.
The Inspiration Programme has been off to a flying start helping showcase different careers and skills with visits from employer’s including Thames Valley Police, Thames Valley Partnership, Borras Construction, ZSL London Zoo, 3WaysDisplays, and Health Tec Thames Valley (Bucks).
The Breakout Programme
With the dreadful news of yet another 2 young people in Buckinghamshire involved in stabbings this month, it’s clear that intervention is needed now more than ever. It’s a vicious circle as carrying a knife statistically increases the chances of being injured yet with rising numbers of people carrying knives, young people tell us they ‘need’ to carry one as it makes them feel safer. It’s a complex problem, but we know some young people are more vulnerable than others, and it’s a very slippery slope.
Media coverage highlighting the acute problem locally helps raise awareness. Businesses are also wanting to help bring an end to the misery caused by knife crime. This month there have been 2 pledges of corporate sponsorship for the Breakout programme which results in some schools, who know they have an issue but struggle to fund opportunities, not to miss out.
Several Breakout programmes are underway, schools have been carefully choosing which participants take part, considering factors such as whose more susceptible to criminality, at risk of exclusion or may already be known to the police. This is helpful at targeting resources, but there’s also an opportunity to help more young people before problems become too deep-rooted. One year 10 teacher told us “it’s starting to be kids that you never would have thought of, we can’t let it happen, we need to intervene much earlier so there’s a chance to not even think about going down this path”.
The programme tackles some tough questions. Over a 12-months period through mentoring, classroom sessions and outdoor education, participants really hold the mirror up on their lives, their choices, and their influencers. As well as reflecting on their decisions, they are given the tools with a focus on building up self-esteem to make more positive sustainable choices going forward. One young person acknowledged just how tough that starting point is “it’s a habit, like I pick up my keys, my phone, my cutter. It’s not, like, hiding or anything, it’s just there.”
Our winter breakouts will get the benefit of running whilst the knife angel is touring the area, a powerful illustration of the scale of the issue. Our next newsletter will feature what young people thought of the Knife Angel.
NCS and Changemakers
The NCS team have been busy over the past couple of weeks completing Autumn programmes and setting up for a bumper Winter helping young people to realise their potential and smash their future goals
The autumn programme includes partnering with Specialist Schools like Stony Dean and Alfriston. We love residentials as you can see huge progress in a short space of time. Young people enjoy learning life skills to support independent living and accessing experiences they typically wouldn’t haven’t access to. On the first day 17 young people from Stony Dean started the intensive programme nervous, shy or overly excited due to nerves. By the end, lots of new skills had been learnt with bucket loads of self-belief and confidence.
Another 50 young people in October came forward to attend the events covering the ‘building a team’ aspect of Changemakers. There’s some really exciting events coming up, including Christmas card and advent calendar making with pizza! Finishing up at the Bucks Goat Centre, planting trees for a new project and learning about what the site do to help those with SEND in the local community in Aylesbury.
We are delighted that St James’s Place Foundation has awarded A4Y a 3-year grant for to support youth workers at The Junction. Having multi-year support allows us to plan ahead and have long-term sustainability of proven initiatives.
It was fantastic to be part of the Our Communities’ launch of NHBC. Business can make a real impact to communities, and we are delighted to have a strategic partnership with NHBC who fund both The Breakout and The Inspiration Programmes as well as supporting our charity development for the next two years.