The story below demonstrates the impact of Action4Youth’s activities and the life-changing effects they can have on young people of all abilities.
Jamie is 16 and has Down Syndrome. He came into contact with Action4Youth when he took part in the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme. NCS is a government scheme for 15-17 year olds to promote social cohesion by ‘fostering understanding between young people of different backgrounds’ as well as increasing social mobility and promoting social engagement.
Although Action4Youth assured his teachers it was possible for Jamie to be safe on the programme with extra cover, his parents had reservations. Jamie’s mum, Helen explains; “In Year 5, his school and classmates were able to support his ‘foibles’ on a residential trip, he’s now in Year 11 and his sense of danger isn’t as developed as other students his age. We felt he might run off and hide and we were terrified they would lose him, that he would hurt himself or be bullied.”
However, Jamie took part in all activities and trips on the programme and was supported by his new peers who embraced him “but not in a mothering way” his mum, Helen, explained.
As part of his NCS experience, Jamie took part in water sports at Caldecotte Xperience where he tried out new activities that helped to increase his self-confidence and independence. Helen explains; “he did things we thought might have scared him. I think this came from having the extra freedom.”
After NCS, Jamie had developed into a more self-assured individual, “For example, he had cooked and learned to make a cup of tea”, Helen says. “Now he makes tea for me from start to finish. He also puts his hand in mine less often now… My high point was Jamie making fundraising cakes independently. Previously he had only stirred the mixture but I made myself sit back while he weighed things out. They have to make mistakes themselves; for parents, that can be the hardest bit.”
Alison, Jamie’s team leader from Action4Youth, found her job ‘10 times easier’ because the group took Jamie under their wing. “There was a learning curve, but never a problem or issue,” she says. “He struggled with some things, but every young person will find some part of the programme a challenge, so Jamie was no different in that respect. He had huge stamina, gave everything a go. He did the programme as well as anyone else. And, of course, when students leave school they have to integrate with other people, whether or not they have special needs.”
Jamie sometimes struggles to articulate his views but he is unequivocal in his endorsement of Action4Youth and the NCS programme:
“I liked playing games best, but disliked walking up hills, I learned to help with animals, and raised money for Tiggywinkles. I feel more grown up and was very happy to receive my certificate. If someone was worried about doing NCS, I would tell them it is fun.”Jamie