Summer 2020 has been very different for the typical teenager. With exams cancelled and no prom, festivals or holidays, youngsters from South Shields have instead turned their time to support Covid-19 relief projects across the borough. 

Pledging their time with NCS (National Citizen Service), teams of teenagers have been volunteering in parks across the area, collecting litter, creating bird boxes and carrying out nature surveys where they’ve been logging rare plants.

It’s all part of NCS’ ‘Keep Doing Good’ programme, where 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. Supported by NCS delivery partner Headliners in South Tyneside, local teams have been hard at work in Temple Park and West Park.

16 year old Georgia Burdis, from South Shields, said: “The work we’re doing in the parks will benefit every age group. We’ve seen everyone from toddlers and families to elderly members of the community using the space, which was a safe place to reflect for many during lockdown.

“It’s really opened my eyes up to how much litter is in our community spaces. It’s easy to do something about it and keep our parks looking good and keep them open as somewhere to benefit physical and mental health.”

16 year old Katie Slater, from South Shields, said: “I was eager to help my local community and support in the recovery post lockdown. I really enjoyed learning photography skills to help raise awareness of local issues, taking part in team-building games and working in a team with new people. I’ve picked up lots of skills.”

Holly Ayrton, Youth Worker at Groundwork South and North Tyneside, who runs the Future Proof Parks project, said: 

“During lockdown we found that our volunteers, particularly the older members of the team, were shielding, so we weren’t able to get through the usual amount of activity.

“It’s great to have an influx of teenagers helping out. They can get into overgrown areas easily, behind hedgerows and can cover a lot of ground. They quickly understand the technology needed for our nature surveys too. It is really amazing to see the impact that a group of young people can make in their community – they’ve been able to quickly transform our parks.”

Sam Laing, NCS Project Manager at Headliners, said: “I’m amazed by what teenagers of South Tyneside have been able to achieve this summer. After having their summer plans halted they’ve regrouped with a real No We Can attitude and made a real difference to the community spaces that we all enjoy.”

In the autumn there will be another chance for teenagers to get involved in NCS programmes. Visit wearencs.com for more information.