A ‘feast of fun’ served up by Middlesbrough teenagers has been highly commended by NCS – a youth programme that runs every summer and autumn during school holidays, after they helped battle social deprivation in one corner of the town.

The volunteering work of fifteen local teenagers aged 16-17 was put forward for a national social action award for their work to bring a community together, subsequently being highly commended and shortlisted in the top five projects from the thousands completed across the country in 2019.

The teenagers, from different schools across Middlesbrough, supported Breckon Hill Community Centre, a charitable organisation in a deprived area of Middlesbrough which offers a range of services aimed around educational, recreational and social activities. After raising £855 through a sponsored litter pick of Redcar beach, the team then put their efforts towards their main project, running a ‘community inclusion week’ aimed to benefit users of the centre, and in particular the area’s increasing multi-cultural community. The area has become a home to many cultures including the Bangladeshi and Roma communities.

They ran a week of activities to encourage social integration for all members of the community. The team made food to emphasise each culture represented by users of the centre, while they encouraged conversation over meals so guests could discuss their backgrounds and cultures.

The teens also brought together younger members of the community to take part in activities that would otherwise be unobtainable without the funding including visits from the Wildlife Trust and ZooLab who brought along spiders, snakes and giant snails with them.

Not stopping there, over the course of the week the team used their funds to provide a film day, hire of a bouncy castle and hosted an arts and craft day. During the holidays, families that use the centre are often stuck for activities to keep their children entertained locally, or don’t have disposable income to visit cinemas and entertainment, or afford public transport costs to travel into the town centre.

At the end of their project, the team produced a care pack for each family filled with essentials.

Team member Kaci Taylor, 17, said: “Our social action project helped the community because many people said child poverty was an aspect of Middlesbrough that needed improving. Each day, the children left the centre with a big smile on their face due to the enjoyment of the activities we had planned. At the end of the week, we gave the families care packages which they were thankful for because the items we gave them were amenities that they may not have had without our help.

“When doing the social action project, I felt proud that I had made a difference to the children’s summer. Most of all, I was incredibly happy that the children enjoyed the week.” 

Banna Faidulla, NCS Team Leader, said: “Their social action project was centred around addressing the levels of social deprivation and child poverty in Middlesbrough. After researching community needs, the young people found that Middlesbrough has the highest rate of child poverty in the North East, at 34%, and this helped consolidate their intention to battle social deprivation.

“I felt extremely proud seeing how quickly the team planned the social action project after spending two days collecting research within our local community.”

Amanda Buck, from Breckon Hill Community Centre, said: “As part of the NCS community action project the [usual] provision was extended from 2 hours to 4 hours, opening earlier than normal hours and providing families with breakfast rather than just lunch.  The team provided a programme of activities and events which allowed the children to participate in fun and meaningful activities.

“Prior to the NCS team’s involvement the children would be limited to 2 activities per day and often these were delivered by the staff.  The NCS team were able to fundraise and bring in external activities, for example the ZooLab, who brought in a petting zoo.

“Having so many young people really helped us as an organisation as normally it is only one staff member and a volunteer who plans, delivers and co-ordinates all of the activities.

“This had a great impact, not only did it extend the time that parents had somewhere to take the children to but it provided them with an opportunity to have some much needed rest bite knowing their children were being cared for and entertained in a safe and friendly environment.”

Banna Faidulla continued: “As their team leader, I feel extremely privileged to have had the opportunity to work with such an incredible group of young people that have flourished throughout the NCS programme. I feel proud to have witnessed their self-development into professional young adults, who are not afraid to face a challenge!”

Since it was established in 2011 nearly 600,000 young people have taken part in NCS, completing over 14.5 million hours of community action, and gaining priceless life experiences. To find out more visit wearencs.com.