Making a real difference in the community

LAST week’s Footnote promised some firsthand feedback from this summer’s local National Service Pilots. For the following account of the impact on the young people who took part, I am indebted to Sussex Central YMCA’s engagement and learning co-ordinator, Jason Anderton.

The National Citizen Service (NCS) was run out of the Y-Centre in Horsham this summer, facilitated by staff from Sussex Central YMCA - of course the main stars being 16-year-old school leavers from the Horsham district.

One week of outdoor activities followed by a week of camping, and then a social action plan that would help the one thing that all these young people have in common (apart from their age) - their community.

Supported, in sponsorship form, by local businesses JJ and Harry’s Hairdressers and Signs First, the young people met up with the likes of Horsham Town Community Partnership, staff from Horsham District Council and other volunteers that were keen to let them know what they felt needed supporting in the area.

This definitely opened the eyes of these enthusiastic young minds that, without this scheme, would have probably just walked past each other down East Street without a second glance.

Now though these young people were friends and had even created a team or family togetherness that wanted to help others around them.

The others turned out to be the elderly (Age UK, Horsham District) and this team of ‘NCSers’ managed to raise just short of £300 by painting nails, holding a bedtime walk in town and creating a fun day with bouncy castles and football to boot.

At first the team effort was appreciated by the beneficiaries of the money raised and by the young people that had created some lifelong friends and memories, but as the certificate presentation event kicked off and people were invited to ‘meet and mingle’, it became clear that these young people had now met, and worked with business owners, the council, the local MP of course and other people from the community, that otherwise they more than likely didn’t know even existed.

For some young people ‘The Big Society’ and ‘community cohesion’ are ideas that adults just use so they can feel important and stuff, but for some young people now (and lots more in future NCS schemes) it means they can feel part of that and realise that they are the important ones. And yes, they can make a difference to their and everyone’s community.

FRANCIS MAUDE

MP for Horsham