02 July 2014 By Laura Bradley
As a team of cyclists and roping in everyone we can (parents, friends and colleagues) we've been fundraising and training for months. When we had the opportunity to see how a local charity benefits from the William Wates Memorial Trust, we jumped at the chance.
The Alitex Peloton visited Weston Church Youth Project, which is located in the third most deprived area of Hampshire. The aim of the project is to give young people a chance in life that they might otherwise not get – it’s such a simple yet brilliant idea, which makes all the difference, as we found out. The people on the project are encouraged to achieve, to engage and ultimately to have a lot of fun - as all children should do.
The project is awe-inspiring and the children we met were engagingly confident and more than happy to open up and chat to us, a visiting odd-ball group of cyclists. In fact I was quite shocked - some children I know in the same age range can barely grunt a response and they have all the opportunities life can give them. It seemed to make the achievements of the project even more impressive - equipping the children with confidence.
From after school clubs, trips away, paint balling, talent shows - there is always something to look forward to for the young people at Weston Church Youth project and more importantly, somewhere just to hang out and feel safe. A group of girls I chatted to said that they made friends with people they would never have met if it hadn't been for the project. They now have a large circle of people that they can turn to, who care and can provide support.
Those running the project are quick to say that they do not function as a school - it is not their role to discipline. They reach out and try to get the kids to engage with each other and have the confidence to make friends and just have fun. The kids said that the volunteers are adults that they can trust - not teachers or parents, but importantly someone older that they can turn to, who won't judge but provide help and advice.
The overriding impression I was left with was the amazing amount of respect the children had for each other and the carers.
Carol from Alitex spent her time speaking to one project attendee and found her to be an inspiration; always in trouble at school and not expected to achieve anything, she has changed her life around. After taking part in the programme she realised if she wanted to become a veterinary nurse (her goal) she would have to work at getting her GCSE’s. She was predicted to scrape C’s, but fantastically she ended up with nothing below a C and surprised herself with some A grades. She is now at Sparsholt Agricultural College doing a Veterinary Nurse Diploma and hopes to stay there to do her degree. She absolutely loves it and is happy to work as hard as she can. “Very impressive”, said Carol, even more so, when one considers her home circumstances. She is one of nine children, six living at home. She does all the cooking and cleaning and looks after their mum – and, moreover, is happy to do it. Also on her Wednesday afternoons off from college she volunteers at a local old people’s home, which she loves and hopes she can carry on doing all the time she is at college.
A very solid and caring human being who might otherwise not have found a vocation without the project. The young woman says she doesn't know what she would be doing now if it wasn't for the programme. It made her realise she could make a difference to her life. One of her sisters who has also had problems at school is now in one of the PAD groups.
For Carol, all the time and energy that has been put into the training and charity is justified. “I can’t think of a better reason to raise the money”, comments Carol. (Middle of team and van image)
Thank you to Weston Church Youth Project for opening their doors and giving us even more of a will to keep peddling – we all so much enjoyed your stories and anecdotes you shared.
And if this at all spurs you to give, please donate at: http://www.bmycharity.com/alitex
To find out more:
The Weston Church Youth Project - http://www.westonchurchyouthproject.co.uk/
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