A day with young people in Bedford

16 August 2019

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Rhodri Thomas, Managing Director of Reed in Partnership, writes about his day with the National Citizen Service:

Reed in Partnership is nearing the end of another busy summer supporting thousands of 15 and 16 year-olds to take part in the government's National Citizen Service programme. We are proud to provide the programme in the East of England and South West, enabling young people to develop their personal skills and experience and work together to improve their local communities.

I was excited to see the programme in action on a visit to Bedford with our partner Hear 2 Listen. Seventy-nine young people were taking part in the second week of the programme, which focuses on personal development. This includes learning essential life skills, gaining confidence in public speaking, communication skills and budgeting.

The young people spent the first week of the programme in Condover Hall in Shrewsbury where they had the opportunity to try rock climbing, abseiling and archery as well as running their own camp. Several of the young people mentioned this was the first time they'd ever had the chance to try these activities and there had definitely been some early apprehension about the abseiling! They had been put in groups with teenagers from different schools and it was fantastic to see the friendships developing between them.

I joined the young people as they took part in a selfie challenge around Bedford. The task gave them an opportunity to work in groups to navigate their way across the town, find out more about the history of their local area and identify and think about potential social action projects. Afterwards they headed back to their residential accommodation at the University of Bedfordshire for a review and team building exercises.

Several of the groups mentioned they were already thinking about their plans for week three of the programme, where they will develop social action projects to benefit their local community.

The day after I joined them they were due to meet with several charities including K9 Partners, Young Carers and a mental health awareness group called Chums. The young people can develop projects in support of these charities, or identify their own cause to benefit. I was struck by the young people's commitment to making a difference. NCS for them came with a great purpose and they were really keen to take advantage of the opportunity to give something back to their community.

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I was also greatly impressed by the Team Leaders and Assistants helping facilitate the programme. The team of staff came from a range of ages and backgrounds, including teachers, youth workers and university students. A few of the students were NCS graduates themselves who were inspired by their Team Leaders when they had taken part in the programme. They now wanted to have the chance to develop their own leadership and organisational skills. It was clear the quality of the staff working on the programme was instrumental in ensuring the fantastic experience the young people were enjoying in Bedford.

The group's Wave Leader, Insia, told she had worked on NCS for eight years now. She said: "No programme is ever the same and this year has been no different."

"The array of young people come with their own unique personalities, but all with the same common goal - to enjoy the programme."

"This week we've seen young people get up and sing their heart out after believing they would never have the confidence to do something like that previously. Being told 'thank you for caring about me' at the end of the week is why I keep coming back to NCS ever year."

National Citizen Service is a really important programme for helping young people at an important time in their life. From the services that Reed in Partnership delivers, we often see the challenges involved in making the transition from education into higher education, training or employment. NCS gives those young people taking part a headstart in this regard. When combined with the chance to get out of their comfort zones, make lasting new friendships, try exciting new activities and make a difference in the community, the programme's benefits are substantial.

Many thanks to the team and young people in Bedford.