Covid grant helps anxious youngsters with activity days

By Barrie Hudson - 18 May 2021

Charity

More than 100 young people struggling with anxiety and isolation will have days out thanks to Wiltshire Community Foundation.

The Youth Adventure Trust was awarded almost £10,000 to run the three days of activities at the Cotswold Water Park from the community foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund.

The Swindon-based trust works with young people aged 11 to 16 from Swindon and all over Wiltshire who have been struggling at school, including many who have been excluded, and also young carers looking after ill relatives. 

Its three year programme includes mentoring and a series of residential activity weeks to build confidence and self-esteem.

More than a year of lost fundraising and increased costs through having to switch contact online has meant the charity had to cancel a three-day Jurassic Coast Camp. 

Fundraising director Louise Balaam said its young members, who are struggling to stay engaged, were at risk of dropping out of the programme and missing a vital Forest of Dean camp in August.

She added: “We realised that the young people we are working with were not getting outside and doing anything unless it was with us.

"It’s been hard work to keep them engaged with the programme and the residentials are of course what they love. It’s important because it keeps them engaged with our programme until they come on the Forest Camp which is when we can have the most impact on them.”

The 110 young people will enjoy kayaking, sailing and raft-building together next week, which is an important for their mental health

Mrs Balaam said: “The outdoors is still inaccessible to a lot of young people, which is a real shame and we believe that it is the key to helping them with their mental wellbeing, developing their confidence and overcoming their anxieties - and anecdotally we know that is through the roof at the moment.

“We had one young person who has not been outside since last March until they came to an activity day in February because they had a parent who was shielding and they were anxious about passing covid on. 

"We know more certainly than ever that without us they wouldn’t have the chance to take part in these kinds of activities.”

 

Some of the young people will be away from home for the first time.

“We really challenge them on that camp, we have two overnight expeditions where they will be building shelters in the forest and canoeing down the River Wye,” said Mrs Balaam. 

“We can work with them and they are a bit clearer about what they want to achieve.”

At a time when the mental health of more young people than ever before has been damaged by covid, the trust is having to scale back its programme for the year ahead because of the loss of fundraising since last March.

“We are recruiting the 2021 intake at the moment and where we would have been recruiting 120 people normally, this time we will be taking 80,” said Mrs Balaam.

“We know there are more young people than ever who could do with our services, and that’s a really difficult thing for us, but we don’t want to let them down and we decided it was better to recruit 80 knowing we could commit for the full three years of our programme.

“There were a lot of disappointed young people when we had to cancel our Coastal Camp so we are very grateful for this grant. 

"These half-term activities weren’t on the cards until we got the funding from Wiltshire Community Foundation.”

The community foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund has distributed more than £1.5 million through more than 300 grants. The fund has already supported the trust’s work with two other grants totalling £11,000.

Joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “Many young people have felt isolated and abandoned over the past year but the Youth Adventure Trust has been a steadfast friend to them throughout. 

"The injection of assurance and resilience these activities bring can be life-changing and we are so pleased to support them again.”

The trust's website is youthadventuretrust.org.uk and the community foundation's is wiltshirecf.org.uk

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