Young people from East Herts get out of their ‘comfort zone’ during their summer holidays

12 September 2016

Youth Connexions delivered a four-week National Citizen Service (NCS) programme to young people from Bishops Stortford, Sawbridgeworth, Hertford, Ware, Much Hadham and Buntingford this summer.

The NCS programme sees young people choose worthwhile community causes to support, plan and budget for projects, raise funds and carry out the work. 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.

The first week of the programme was a residential trip to an outdoor education centre on Isle of Wight. The young people worked in teams, overcoming fears and supporting each other as they took part in adventurous activities such as raft building, archery, climbing, high and low ropes and zip wire courses.

 Beane Group Climbing

For the second week-long residential, the East Herts group stayed at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield. Here they increased their knowledge of emergency first aid, food hygiene, map reading and navigation. They continued to develop their communication and interpersonal skills as they learnt about self-reflexion, active listening and establishing positive relationships. They also took part in workshops on presentation skills, problem solving, sex and relationships and team building. At the end of the week they started researching and planning for their social action projects.

For weeks three and four, the young people split into four geographical groups: Buntingford, Bishop’s Stortford, Ware and Hertford, to carry out their community projects.

 Rib Group Kayaking

The Buntingford team decided to make their local youth project more attractive by clearing rubble, weeds and branches from the garden. They refurbished the garden furniture and planted some flowers. They also designed and painted a mural in the main activity area of the youth project.

One of the two teams based in Bishop’s Stortford organised a fun day at Sworder’s Field in aid of Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. They organised a barbeque, fun races for children, face painting, a raffle and stalls selling cakes, drinks and other goodies. They raised over £200 which they will use to buy teddy bears and toys for children and young people at the hospital. The other Bishop’s Stortford team organised an open mic night for local bands and performers to raise money for Grove Cottage, a charity which provides social and educational opportunities to people of all ages with disabilities.

 Mimram Group Photo

The Ware Young People’s Centre also accommodated two NCS teams, one of which chose to raise money for the Herts & Essex Air Ambulance and the Teenage Cancer Trust. Staff from the air ambulance had given a talk about the charity at the residential at the University of Hertfordshire in week two and the young people said they were really moved by the stories they had shared. They also felt that the air ambulance potentially benefits everyone in their community. The Teenage Cancer Trust was chosen as each young person knew of a family member or friend who had been affected by cancer. To raise money for these charities they packed bags for shoppers in the Hertford Waitrose and organised a ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ activity evening inviting other young people to participate in a range of activities including sports, games and a film night.

The other team based in Ware chose to raise money for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and planned and delivered an activity day at Chauncy School, which included activities to raise awareness of how sight loss affects daily life.  Activities included drawing, games and information for young people about resources to support people with visual impairments. The group also completed a sponsored walk blindfolded in pairs and raised just over £350.

The Hertford-based team chose to raise money for and awareness of Stonewall, a charity which campaigns for the equality of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. They designed their own tie-dye t-shirts, based on a retro 60s theme, and organised a sponsored walk along the River Lea to Enfield Lock. They also raised money and awareness of LGBT issues in Hertford town centre, speaking to members of the public about NCS and their own experiences. This group raised in excess of £200 and are keen to be part of a local Youth Connexions LGBT group in the future.

Through these social action projects the young people learnt about time management, organising events, risk assessment and action planning.

Here’s what some of the young people said about their NCS experience:

Chelsea (16): “This experience has made me feel more confident about myself and made me come out of my shell.”

Freya (16): “NCS has helped me become more confident. I have never made friends as quickly as I have on NCS.”

Lauren (16): “It’s been a challenge and has taken me out of my comfort zone.”

Amelya (16): “I have met new friends and learnt that I enjoy group work, I feel we learnt loads together.”

Find out more about NCS with Youth Connexions here.

Want to sign up for the 2016 Autumn programme? Express your interest here.