Town centre Youthwork project
Originally established as a crime reduction and unemployed youth initiative in 1996, WHYP has since grown through working in partnership with a number of local agencies (e.g. Connexions, Schools and Youthwork in Cumbria) to deliver personal development training often with an adventure / outdoor activity theme. Their new town centre location, with a sports-hall type room out back, is perfectly placed for young people to drop-in and for the various youth club nights they organise.
James is a small boy for his age, with a hearing loss which necessitates wearing hearing aids. James responded to a mention in the local paper to join the bird group – part of our Adventure Group activity programme. He was only 10 years old, very shy and quiet. He lives at the heart of a housing estate with very little of the natural world to go at!
Since joining our outings he has gained confidence and friendships and now participates in a range of activities including night walks, wildlife visits, ice skating and now conservation work clearing a footpath. His enthusiasm for the outdoors is tremendous and there are always a stream of questions to answer and his thirst for knowledge and interest is pursued in an intelligent way. Lyn our volunteer support worker describes James as, ‘well mannered and a credit to his mum and the Harbour Project, besides which he is really focussed and a very hard worker’.
It has been great to witness a lad like James gain confidence, get out and involved with active things in the outdoors, build friendships and relate to leaders. In a year which celebrated the anniversary of Charles Darwin we really feel we have seen similar qualities developing in James! Approaching 13 years now, it will be fascinating to see how James develops and how he helps others over the next few years with us.
As part of our partnership working with local secondary schools we worked with a small group from Whitehaven School. The group exhibited very challenging behaviour, but engaged with us over a period of 18 months. Elements included Key Fund applications which proved fascinating as a tool for working together amongst a group who had an array of issues and chaos in their lives. The fact that the group turned up regularly and went with what we provided is credit to a group whose behaviour stemmed in a large part from a base of fear and insecurity in their lives. A further 18 months down the line and we still see the group, they have left school but call in to see us and reminisce about times we had together and about what else might be happening.
Just before Christmas, now aged 18, Alf dropped in to see if he could volunteer in any way and try and build up more of a CV. Having explained what we require of a volunteer, he was eager to take up the challenge and he has already proved himself of worth and to have learnt from his previous experiences, to be reliable, appropriate, enthusiastic and with the added advantage of a good and well placed sense of humour. He is living with dad, he has decided that he would give up smoking on health and financial grounds and has worked out budgeting of his limited income. Alf is on New Deal and should be starting a placement with us in the next fortnight. He has already shown a commitment to the table tennis coaching sessions and really got stuck in on the footpath clearance conservation project. We look forward to working alongside Alf as he builds a way into employment – and the signs are looking good.
Sometimes we see a child who simply hasn’t had the chance to experience things which the rest of us take for granted, like living on the estate and never having stood beneath an impressive tree and gazed upwards in wonder. Rosie is just such a child, one who voices her enthusiasm for what she experiences with a freshness which underlines the depth of her feelings. On one Adventure Group exploration we were walking up through the forest at Dodd Wood when the gushing beck stopped Rosie in her tracks – she voiced her amazement at, for her, the novelty of this living and tumbling cascade of water. She had never seen anything like it before! We all enjoyed her enjoyment and it underlined our own appreciation of what is special in our surroundings. Further on we came to a kissing gate which floored Rosie – she couldn’t work out how to pass through it until one of the others led the way! There’s financial poverty and then there’s a poverty of experience in life.
Came to us six years ago as a frail blonde haired lad who got involved big time. Youth Club, Adventure Group – it has really made a man of him. He shed a tear or two on a walk in to a Bothy in the Southern Uplands because he had couple of blisters and a heavy load. He laughs about it now and tells others. He eventually learnt to tie his boot laces effectively. He was there for any opportunity and when a team were gathering for a kayaking trip to the Baltic islands of Sweden, Stanley was in the team. A wide range of experiences and lots of hours with youth leaders and other adolescents helps to shape a young life. Stanley in now 18 years old, did a school work placement with us, is a young leader and one of the reps on our management committee. He was commended as a runner up in a volunteer of the year award. Reliable and maturing nicely as a well balanced young man Stanley will meet the next hurdle in life, post ‘A’ level exams this year. We have every confidence and look forward to his next step in life’s journey.