A typical summer for a teenager might involve prom, festivals and overseas holidays – but with this year looking very different, one team of passionate Gateshead teens kickstarted their summer holidays by launching a school uniform donation scheme to help families most in need.

With the country starting to get back on its feet, the teenagers have pledged their time via NCS (National Citizen Service) to play their part in helping to rebuild local communities and create positive change.

The usual NCS programme which includes residential phases wasn’t able to take place, but with lockdown easing and safety precautions in place, NCS are inviting teens aged 16-17 to pledge their time to ‘Keep Doing Good’ by pledging at least 16 hours of volunteering in their local area. They can organise their own projects and help support organisations such as food banks, care homes and charities, who all need extra help right now.

Among them are a team of inspiring youngsters in Gateshead, working with NCS provider Groundwork North East. From their own experiences, they identified that many local families struggle with the affordability of school uniform, and with the COVID-19 pandemic affecting jobs and money security, they think the affordability of uniform will be a bigger issue once schools go back in September.

With this in mind, they’ve spent their summer running a school uniform donation service, collecting any outgrown or unused items and making sure those most in need receive them.

17 year old Morgan Harwood was made redundant from his part-time job at a fashion store during lockdown. He said: “With no sixth form and no work, I had hardly anything to do. Volunteering has been great – it feels like I’m working again.

“This was a brainstorm idea before lockdown. But with Covid-19 we decided to kick this into high gear because lots of people might have fallen on hard times. Uniforms, when kids go back to school, can be really expensive.

“We wanted to make a change so we launched the ‘Gateshead Uniform Donation’ scheme. We’re collecting blazers, jumpers, shirts, trousers as well as stationery and other supplies and want to reallocate these to families attending any primary or secondary school in Gateshead. We want to help reduce social inequality in the area.

“So far we’ve seen enormous support from parents sharing our Facebook posts and we’ve seen a steady number of donations. We are also accepting requests from parents who would like to collect uniform in an effort to reduce their unnecessary costs.”

Tom Jackson, 16, said: “We’ve had loads of donations from parents and have most Gateshead schools stocked. We received over 500 items in the first week.

“Lockdown was really isolating for teenagers. If it wasn’t for NCS I’d likely be at home away from friends. Exams were cancelled and teens have already missed out on things like proms, holidays and our usual summer, so I jumped at the opportunity to do this. Hopefully our project will help those families most at need in Gateshead right now.”

The team are collecting items at their drop off point at Lobley Hill Youth & Community Centre, 47-49 Scafell Gardens, Gateshead, NE11 9LS or can be contacted via their Facebook page ‘Gateshead Uniform Donation’ or at GatesheadUniformDonation@gmail.com. They are also speaking to other community centres across Gateshead to set-up further collection hubs.

There’s another chance for 16-17 year olds to take part in NCS programmes this autumn. To find out more visit wearencs.com