Create and shape the activities you want with Energise YOUth.
In 2019 we were able to support Andover Young Carers to set up a swimming and climbing Energise YOUth project. Here’s the story of how the project was set up and how it worked. It also shares the impact the project had on the young carers involved.
Since 2000 Andover Young Carers have been working in Andover and surrounding areas to ensure the needs of young carers are recognised and met. The team works closely with the Hampshire Young Carers Alliance (HYCA), local schools, local charities, and the families of their young carers.
Young carers are children who look after a family member with an illness, disability, mental health condition or addiction. Young carers can often find that their caring responsibilities influence their schooling, relationships and physical activity.
The aim of this project was to improve physical and mental health, confidence, relationships and wellbeing of the young carers involved. It worked to do so through increasing their participation in physical activity.
The Children’s Society were an important partner of this project. They led a consultation for the young carers group. Through the consultation, the group decided that the activities they would most like to take part in were swimming and climbing. In order to develop skills and create a good learning environment, the swimming sessions were set up to be 50% instructed lessons and 50% ‘free play’. The young carers were excited to take part in activities as a group. They wanted to encourage one another and gain confidence together.
The club ran between Mid-November 2019 through to the end of February 2020. There were 12 sessions (8 swimming and 4 climbing). The young carers attended sessions with project workers who they knew well and trusted. Andover Leisure Centre offered to match each Energise YOUth activity with a free session for the young carer. They were each given a ‘passport’ to collect stamps for each one they attended.
To find out how the young people felt about the club, each young person was provided with a journal log. They could use the log to write comments in, or use emoji stickers. A total of 13 participants aged between 14-16 years old joined the 12 sessions. At the beginning of the project 8/13 participants said they “very rarely” took part in physical activity (outside of school). The group were then asked to rate (from 1-10) how confident they were to take part in physical activity. The average answer was 6 out of 10.
At the start of the project, some participants were nervous, saying, “It was a bit scary because I haven’t done it in a long time” and that physical activity was, “Slightly nerve-wracking.” and “Scary!”.
However, as participants attended more sessions there was a clear change in their thoughts on physical activity. The young people said “I swam to the deep end, achievement of the week!” and “I am an awesome human being! (Happy face emoji)”. One young person said that they were “starting to become more comfortable, fun!”.
The youth lead responsible for the project, Nik has some advice for other youth leaders, or anyone thinking about starting an Energise YOUth project. He says: “This club has demonstrated how physical activity can be used to break down barriers in a group. It is paramount to address any fears or concerns your young people may have before starting. The quicker a young person feels more comfortable in their surroundings and amongst their peers, the better their chances of staying engaged throughout the programme.”
Nik did note that the young carers missed their usual cooked meal together during the project, “Having to rely on sandwiches each week got old, quickly. They say an army marches on its stomach and our young carers are no different!”
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