Young people learn how hard work can pay off with Youth Connexions National Citizen Service

12 September 2016

84 young people from Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield and surrounding areas took part in the Youth Connexions National Citizen Service (NCS) programme this summer, raising over £500 for local charities.

The four-week 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.

During the first week of the programme the young people learnt to work as part of a team in a range of different situations at an outdoor education centre on the Isle of Wight. They developed their communication, negotiation and problem-solving skills as they took part in activities such as orienteering, bushcraft, archery, low rope and zip line courses.

One of the participants, Yvie, said she had stepped out of her comfort zone and “felt happy about it”. 

The second week was another residential – this time at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield. Youth Connexions staff delivered a programme in which young people learnt and developed a variety of skills to increase their personal safety and awareness and improve their employability. They took part in workshops including first aid, air ambulance road safety awareness, sexual health awareness, CV writing and interview skills. They also learnt about planning and carrying out social action projects in preparation for the following two weeks of the programme.

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 the group divided into six teams to carry out their social action projects:

Team 1 decided to support the local Isobel Hospice in Welwyn Garden City by holding an ‘awareness’ stall at the Hatfield Galleria and helping to renovate the garden area of the hospice. They chose this charity having identified the elderly as a vulnerable group who could benefit from their help. They also raised money for the hospice with a cake sale in Hatfield town centre and a disco event at Breaks Manor Youth Centre in Hatfield and tidied the gardens at this youth centre. They also visited the Greenacres Care Home, and made and painted bird boxes to be given to Greenacres and St Audrey’s care homes, and Breaks Manor Youth Centre.

Team 2 decided to design and paint a mural to support the local lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LBGT) community in their area. They raised money for this project by walking the Alban Way in fancy dress.

Team 3 chose to renovate parts of Breaks Manor Youth Centre as felt it would benefit all the young people who use the centre each week. They painted a large wall around the outside sports pitch, re-strung the instruments in the music room and cut back hedges in the grounds.

Team 4 decided to renovate the garden spaces at St Audrey’s Care Home in Hatfield. They also put on an afternoon tea party at the home with cakes they baked themselves. This group raised money by selling ice cream to other young people taking part in NCS in their break times and washing staff cars. The money raised went to buy gardening tools, plant pots etc.

The manager of St Audrey’s Care Home, Samantha, said: “I have spoken with the staff and residents and both have given really positive comments about all the work being done by the young people. The gardens are coming on and look incredible.”

Team 5 bought two new benches for Breaks Manor Youth Centre and turned them into ‘friendship’ benches by painting them with positive messages and images. The messages were painted in bright colours and focussed on mental health, particularly anxiety, as some of the group had experienced this or knew someone who suffered from it. They also put on an open mic night to raise awareness of mental health issues in White Lion Square, Hatfield.

This team also supported Hertfordshire County Council’s ‘Five Ways To Wellbeing’ initiative by distributing pens and leaflets, put on an event at Haldens Park, Welwyn Garden City, selling cakes to raise money for materials for their projects, and did a day of litter-picking at Stanborough Lakes. They also organised a music and quiz night at St Audrey’s Care Home. They found this a big challenge but managed to put on a fantastic evening for the residents.

The care home manager said ‘All the residents loved it and keep asking when we are getting another music evening - well done.”

Team 6 decorated the Ludwick Family Centre in Welwyn Garden City, and worked really hard all week tidying up the gardens.

As a result of these intergenerational social action projects, the young people became more understanding of diversity and the needs of others. They learnt many transferable skills such as risk assessing, working in teams, planning and self-reflexion that will help them as they move into work, training or higher education.

Quotes from some more of the young people:

Lauren: “NCS has made me look at things more positively.”

Toby: “I have developed as a person and gained a better understanding of what I want to do.”

Amy: “I am a better listener and have more confidence.”

Find out more about NCS with Youth Connexions here.

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