15th June 2021
Young people and their families in Newcastle have praised the grassroots youth groups who they say have been the “heart and soul” of their communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Newcastle Neighbourhood Youth Projects are a collective of seven unique charities that share a common goal of improving lives in the East and West Ends of the city.
Always open, always there, on the announcement of the first lockdown last March, The Bostey, Kids Kabin, D2, North Benwell Youth Project, Northbourne Youth Initiative, Patchwork Project and West End Women and Girls quickly adapted to the restrictions – responding to the needs of the young people under their care.
Within days, they switched their youth work online – making sure they were still there to offer support when it was needed most.
The teams of staff and dedicated volunteers then stepped up to the crisis that unfolded: from cooking up fresh soup for the hungry and delivering essential medical supplies, to providing much-needed activities for young people and mental health support.
When restrictions permitted, they resumed COVID-secure small group sessions – organising arts and craft sessions and outdoor activities. And at Christmas, they worked together to deliver a total of 1,000 activity and wellbeing packs to people’s homes.
Now, as lockdown restrictions continue to ease and the centres reopen, young people and their families share how the groups make such a difference to their lives in a film made as part of a project to capture their coronavirus story.
But youth workers also tell of their concern as they face the continued challenge of securing the funding they need to give the young people the opportunities that can help them reach their potential.
Huffty McHugh, coordinator for West End Women and Girls, said: “It’s a hard time for grassroots community organisations. We’ve been the people who have been here throughout the pandemic, who have had our doors open and the community still coming in.
“People need a place to go, so they are not isolated, they are not lonely. People need sometimes to ask for help.
“Investments in neighbourhoods is really, really important to combat that isolation, that loneliness, to give young people hope and aspiration, somewhere to go, something to do.
“I think that having more projects like ours that are set up by the community, for the community is really, really important. You can’t have enough of them.”
Angela Smith, manager, D2, added: “The young people are not a problem to be fixed. Young people are an age group that needs to be invested in. Right from the start, they need to have their confidence built.”
Together with the Sir James Knott Trust and The Ballinger Charitable Trust, LGA Foundation pledged a total of £730,000 over three years to support the seven projects.
The majority of that went into core funding – but there was also a pot set aside for a shared investment to give the projects that extra breathing space to collaborate and plan for the future – such as sharing best practice and training the next generation of youth workers.
John Reece, said: “Young people have paid a high price as a result of COVID-19. They’ve been asked to make sacrifices to keep others safe.
“There are generations of people in Newcastle who have memories of growing up surrounded by their friends, taking part in outdoor activities and making memories.
“These everyday activities build confidence and resilience – important qualities in character development. Young people need our support now more than ever so that they can make these memories and live these experiences.
Sue Reece, chair of LGA Foundation, added: “We are proud to support these neighbourhood projects, who have been there every step of the way for young people and their families during this pandemic.
“We hope that as we move forward out of lockdown, we will support them as a city and invest in our young people. The amazing work of these projects and the warm words from the young people and their families show what rewards this can bring.”
Watch the Newcastle Neighbourhood Youth Project’s Coronavirus Story here.
From fundraising to volunteering your time and skills – there are many ways that you can get involved with the Newcastle Neighbourhood Youth Projects.
Please get in touch of you would like to get involved.