Anyone who thinks Connect Berwickshire Youth Project is about running a couple of youth club sessions couldn’t be more wrong.
Yes, there are ‘youthies’ in Duns, Coldstream and Eyemouth several times a week, but since the separate youth services at Duns and Coldstream combined in 2011 into a Berwickshire-wide service, Connect has been providing a much more holistic service for young people from the ages of five to their late teens.
From the after-school club in Coldstream, to a project that prepares school leavers for the world of work, Connect has a whole range of services inbetween.
These include summer and Easter holiday programmes; staff helping Eyemouth High School youngsters with the transition from primary to high school; outdoor activities; inter-generational projects where Connect youngsters go into sheltered housing complexes to help residents get to grips with ipads; young parents groups; and small sessional groups.
Connect never stands still. In the short time it has been in existence it has been continually adapting the range of services on offer supporting youngsters from primary to high school. It is still there as they develop into adults.
Two years ago Connect was involved in the joint boat project in Eyemouth, where a group of experienced boat builders worked with seven school leavers on restoring an old fishing vessel. The Drysdales vegetable processing business at Cockburnspath provided the finance and by the end of the project all seven youngsters were taken on by Drysdales as full time employees.
Joint working is a recurring theme with Connect. There are already plans for a programme during the summer, aimed at Berwickshire High School fourth-year pupils, with Connect, Drysdales and Berwickshire Housing Association working as partners. The ‘Want to Work’ programme will give them the opportunity of work experience as they prepare to either stay on at school, move on to college or into work.
“We want to give them a taste of the reality of life after school,” explained Connect manager Steve Wright.
Connect has been fortunate that it has a good team of 22 volunteers helping at the youthie sessions in Coldstream, Duns and Eyemouth and Coldstream’s After School Club. But there is always room for more.
“We are looking for volunteers in Eyemouth to help run the summer programme we are in the process of putting together,” said Steve.
There are adult volunteers and young folk who have come through the service themselves and are now giving something back by helping on a regular basis. Two members of staff, Billie Dishington and Lauren Telford, are also former youth club members themselves. Billie runs Connect’s health living project, and Lauren runs the After School Club. Steve said: “I am very proud that our healthy connections project worker and After School Club leader have come up through the ranks and we have supported them to get their qualifications and continue to support them as they progress in their careers.”
Since Coldstream Youth Project and Duns Youth Club joined forces to become Connect, the organisation has been spreading its wings and will hopefully be moving into its own office space in Eyemouth soon, to establish strong roots there before looking to expand to other areas of Berwickshire.
The geographical spread of Berwickshire is quite a challenge to overcome and while there is plenty of enthusiasm among staff, volunteers and trustees, financing is tough.
Connect has been fortunate enough to attract project funding from Children in Need, the Tudor Trust, the National Lottery, General Mills, the Robertson Trust, young start, Scottish Borders Council, The Rank Foundation, Black Hill Wind Farm Community Fund and a number of local companies and organisations.
Without that assistance the services offered by Connect would not be possible, but one of the biggest difficulties facing the organisation is securing core funding to cover travel and administration costs that provide a secure base.
Both the trustees of Connect, a company limited by guarantee with charitable status, and the manager are constantly on the look out for any person, organisation or company that believes in the organisation enough to invest in the future of Berwickshire youngsters.
l If you are interested in volunteering with Connect or can help with funding email contact Steve Wright at email@example.com
l To find out more about the variety of volunteering opportunities near to you, contact volunteer cluster co-ordinator Kai Peacock on 07585825974, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
■ NEXT WEEK: spotlight on Hawick.