The Community Activators project hosted by Off the Grid Adventures was co-designed and led by 10 young volunteers from Hebburn Project Lead, Paul Kirkpatrick, shares their story of growth over the past two years.

The Community Activators project received funding from People’s Health Trust during the first lockdown. I met the group of 10 volunteers as an extension from the local high school who were all really keen to make a difference in the local community.

I was keen on recruiting some new staff from the local community, it’s always better if you have people that live in the streets where the project is based. The young volunteers were amazing, they were creative, had a fresh insight on what young people wanted and needed, and they were so passionate about making a change in their community.

We did an AQA level 2 Youth Leadership Award with all 10 volunteers and they all got qualified. As part of this they planned and delivered around 20 activity sessions between them, such as archery, tomahawk throwing, outdoor pursuits, camping, bushcraft and outdoor cooking. Seven of the volunteers recently completed Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks and will be paid members of staff who will now be delivering the activities directly.

We had an initial target of engaging 50 young people and we’ve probably engaged nearer 75 people. This project has been quite easy, it’s been a very challenging time, but people were so eager to be involved. I think this was in part due to the passion of the 10 volunteers and this desire to make their community better has spread to their peers and neighbours.

The area we work in doesn’t have very much going on which drives health inequalities. It’s quite a forgotten area. During lockdown we did a lot of street based activities to engage people who were nervous about coming out and getting involved in the community.

For everyone involved, but especially the volunteers, this project has been a huge boost to their confidence and self-esteem. The key bit for me was they wanted to do something to support their community. You don’t always get that. People will come along and take part in an activity but they don’t always want to give back.

The group of young leaders are now focusing on securing funding for future programmes to engage more people and address some of the issues we’ve seen as a result of the pandemic. They’re so proactive and enthusiastic. They’re only 17 and 18 but they’ve already made a huge difference in the local area.

One of the bigger issues through lockdown has been the impact on emotional health from not getting out and getting active. People have been stuck in the house and lost confidence and the ability to go out and socialise. We’re looking at new projects to engage people to help boost confidence and get people out and about in the community again.

Because what we do is new and different and unusual, people are keen to get involved. With these sorts of activities we’re really able to support people to make progress and hopefully go on to keep changing the community for the better as these 10 amazing volunteers have done.

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