Didcot TRAIN works with young people who are at risk of educational failure, crime, child sexual exploitation, alcohol and substance abuse, and other risky behaviours. OCF funded their Young Leaders Programme, which turned the lives of a small cohort of young people around.
Didcot TRAIN Youth Project focused on improving the prospects of a small group of 10 young people (five girls and five boys). At the outset most of the group struggled with low self-confidence; having problems with school; and presenting challenging behaviour. Some of the group were known to the local police for low-level anti-social behaviour, and some were known for more serious crimes.
The charity partnered with Oxfordshire Youth to design a Young Leaders Programme for the cohort. This involved a residential away from home carrying out a series of physical challenges and teamwork; formal education, including written log books to help put the experiences into practice; and several social action projects that saw young people fundraise and campaign for local causes.
The programme resulted in a Level 2 Award in Leadership and Team Skills, and is accredited by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM). It is therefore nationally recognised, meaning that employers, colleges and universities will hold it in high regard, and it is also considered equivalent to an A*- C grade at GCSE.
The grant was made by OCF’s #iwill youth social action funding, made possible by investment by the Big Lottery and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Funding from the #iwill programme is distributed by community foundations all over the UK. In common with other youth social action projects, Didcot TRAIN’s programme had a double benefit – making a huge difference to the young people involved, but also to the local community.
Participants gained confidence and self-esteem thanks to the programme. One young person is now acting as a representative for Oxfordshire Youth Voice Committee, and another who was previously a young offender has since been nominated for two awards from Princes’ Trust. Two young people who were not in education, employment or training (NEET) at the start of the programme went on to full-time education, and another who has an autism-spectrum disorder has been accepted into university.
As a result of the young people’s engagement they have gained enthusiasm and a desire to involve themselves within their community. The group organised and delivered two social actions: a collaboration with Secret Santa where Young Leaders helped delivered leaflets around Didcot, and a fundraising event during Didcot Christmas Street Fair. They were involved in a church clean-up, and acted as representatives for the young people in the local area by attending community meetings.
In common with many of the projects OCF has funded, this has been an example of how people receiving help through our funding go on to help others, creating a virtuous cycle. One of the young people on the programme was not attending school and often met Didcot TRAIN’s youth workers in the field. During the preparations for the Young Leaders Programme they decided to return to school, and on the residential weekend they showed newfound leadership skills, motivated others and overcame their weaknesses. The young person said: “Due to the Young Leaders Programme, I have not only gained confidence in myself, but also helped to build confidence in others.”