Almost 800 young people took part in the Hertfordshire County Council Youth Connexions National Citizen Service (NCS) programme this summer, raising an amazing £12,500 for local charities and undertaking over 47,400 hours of volunteering in their communities
The four-week NCS programme sees young people aged 16 and 17 choose worthwhile community causes to support, plan and budget for projects, raise funds and carry out the work. Each young person has to complete 60 hours of volunteering in their community. As well as learning how to successfully manage and complete a community project, the young people also take part in team-building exercises, which develop their communication, trust and leadership skills. They also gained skills in a variety of areas including first-aid, digital media and sign language.
The first week of the programme was a residential on the Isle of Wight. Supported by youth workers, the young people worked in teams and overcoming their fears took part in challenging activities designed to push them out of their comfort zone and develop their problem-solving, organisational, negotiation and communication skills. The activities included climbing, orienteering, abseiling, raft building, archery, bushcraft, go-karting, high rope and zip line courses.
One of the participants with the Broxbourne Team, Ellie (17), said:
“This has been the best week of my life; everyone has got on so well and the youth workers have been so supportive.”
During the second residential week, which was in Hertfordshire, Youth Connexions staff delivered a skills-building programme to help prepare the young people for the challenges they may face when leaving home or going into further or higher education, employment or training. The young people took part in workshops on CV writing and interview skills, independent living, stress management, active listening and sexual health awareness. All designed to develop their resilience and raise aspirations.
The youth workers also ensured that young people had the skills they needed for the social action projects they would undertake in the following two weeks of the programme. They achieved qualifications in first aid and food hygiene and developed their planning, presentation, decision-making skills and risk management.
Kailee (16) said: “I am more assured of my skills and it has built my confidence and helped me talk to new people.”
For weeks three and four of the programme the young people divided into smaller teams to carry out their social action projects. They chose to do a huge variety of different projects to support many different charities and their local communities. They worked hard transforming neglected gardens, designing and painting murals, redecorating rooms in youth centres and residential care homes. Money was raised from sponsored walks, cycle rides and runs, bag packing in supermarkets, cake sales, raffles and car washing. They organised family fun days, activity evenings, quiz nights and tea parties for the elderly. Two innovative teams performed a ‘flash mob’ – a surprise dance and music performance in their town centres. Several teams worked at their local food banks and soup kitchens. As well as raising money for their chosen causes they also raised awareness, producing posters and leaflets, going on local radio shows and setting up social media accounts.
The Three Rivers Team raised £2,110 to be divided between the Little Princess Trust and the Hertfordshire air ambulance service.
Cristina Barone, Herts Fundraising Manager, Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust, said “Congratulations on the amount raised for the chosen charities! Such an amazing achievement! It was great seeing how much effort they all put into the event!”
Here’s what some more of the participants had to say about their NCS experience:
Toby (17) said: “I have developed as a person and gained a better understanding of what I want to do.”
Ella (16) said: “This has been a brilliant experience. I’ve made loads of friends and really developed my confidence.”
Charles (16): “I have had so much fun and have made many new friends. I have also learned many new things.”
One parent described their son as “a different person” as a result of the programme, and went on to comment on how he had positively changed as a result of working with Youth Connexions over the four weeks.
County Councillor Richard Roberts, Executive Member for Children’s Services commented:
“It’s clear the young people who take part in NCS with Youth Connexions benefit hugely and in so many ways. The skills they learn and the confidence they gain are so important at this time of transition into adulthood.”
You can find out more about Youth Connexions, including NCS, at www.youthconnexions.org.