Graham Oatridge, YMCA England’s Health and Wellbeing Contracts Manager, blogs about a new programme YMCA is delivering all over England, Scotland and Wales to help young people give back to their communities…
YMCA has recently become a delivery partner of the brand new Get Set for Community Action programme. The project aims to strengthen relationships between young people and their local communities through the Olympic Values of friendship, excellence and respect and the Paralympic Values of courage, determination, equality and inspiration.
In total, 15 YMCAs across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will join hundreds of schools in supporting thousands of 14 to 19-year-olds to make links with local community groups to deliver health and wellbeing-focused projects. We are delighted to be involved in this project; health and wellbeing is one of YMCA’s five core work areas and the YMCA network in this country works with well in excess of half a million young people every year.
Most people know that YMCA is a charity that supports young people but we are also a Federation that believes in the importance of community.
Communities and society in general face challenges brought about by a number of factors. Our high streets are changing, the economic environment means there are less public services, the make-up of a modern family looks different to that of 30 years ago and hectic lifestyles mean we often don’t even have time to say ‘hello’ to our neighbours across the garden fence. Perhaps, as people, we are becoming more insular and feel less connected to our immediate community than ever before. Get Set for Community Action aims to change that.
Fundamentally, the programme encourages young people to get involved in positive social action. YMCA Carrickfergus for example is co-ordinating a group of 10 young people to deliver an inclusive, fun exercise and Olympic quiz evening in a local elderly housing association. Others are planning celebration events for local people with learning difficulties. So the next time you see those young people hanging around on the street corner up to no good……maybe they are just getting together and planning the quiz questions!
I know, all this sounds very nice but there is a rationale behind it. YMCA works with young people to help them belong, contribute and thrive, both as individuals, but also for the benefit of the community. Research from across the Pond has evidenced the importance of certain ‘assets’. So, to name a few; a young person perceives that adults in the community value them; a young person receives support from three or more non-parent adults; a young person experiences caring neighbours; young people are given useful roles in the community; a young person spends three or more hours per week in sports, clubs, or organisations either in their school or community. There are many more….36 more to be precise but data collected from four million children over 20 years shows that the more of these assets young people have the better their chances of succeeding in school, the less likely they are to turn to drugs and alcohol, the less likely they are to offend and the more likely they are to become happy, healthy contributing members of society. That sounds like a pretty big win to me.
Of course Get Set for Community Action is just a small part of this, but we are proud to be involved. Look across the 114 YMCAs in England and you will see countless examples of work, all of which is designed to achieve supportive and inclusive communities. Research from YMCA work shows that people who get involved, feel better about themselves and better about their neighbourhoods. So, if you see the chance to get stuck in to any opportunities locally, JUST SAY YES!