A story by Bellshill & Mossend YMCA
The Animar project has been supporting young people aged 12-18 years with additional support needs 3 Saturdays a month.
We are aiming to assist our young people to become more independent and become an active responsible respected adult as part of their local community. We are doing this by developing social skills and consulting our group for a programme of activities within the community.
What Animar did
Animar recruited a small team of 4 staff. We had one member leave in January so we then advertised locally for a new staff member through our partner organisations and similar organisations as well as school and nurseries. Our volunteers were recruited through other YMCA projects, through Volunteer Action North Lanarkshire and through word of mouth about the project.
Recruitment of young people and to try and spread the word about Animar was quite challenging as it was a new group. To combat this I gave a presentation to Social Work teams and parent support groups for young people with additional support needs. We also started to display flyers for Animar in local libraries, community centres, and local shops.
Animar operates for 3 Saturdays each month between the hours of 10am-3pm. We use our dedicated childcare base to run Animar as this allows us to provide a wide range of activities inside and outside.
We managed to include quite a lot of cultural events across the country within our first year. We attended the Commonwealth Games on our doorstep in Strathclyde Park, we travelled to Edinburgh to see the Fringe Festival, and our group also asked if we could visit the new Riverside Museum in Glasgow.
Together we also celebrated Christmas by having our Christmas dinner together at the Toby Carvery and we accomplished our challenge of making our own Burns Supper.
We managed to make great use of our building also throughout the year we had visits from Community Fire Safety Officers, Gerry our expert lecturer in Computer Gaming from the University of the West of Scotland as well as having chillout days learning cooking skills or with a campfire and teaching our group how to do it safely.
Throughout the year many carers commented to us they were unsure of what to do with the free time they now had, for others this just gave them a chance to spend some time with their other chidren or by actually having some time to spend on themselves.
What Bellshill & Mossend YMCA has learned
The major thing we have learned as an organisation is the difference the project is making to the young people and their families. The young people involved with Animar are for the most part the same young people who engaged with us from the start as they know they are consulted and included in every decision about what Animar is doing.
Almost all parents/carers told us upon starting how socially isolated their young peple were becoming as there was no service's available for them. This fit in exactly with what we believed that there was a gap in the local area provision. Animar's work can now evidence to have tackled this problem with a greater engagement with parents due to a focus on developing relationships to learn and provide a better service for the whole family.
Animar has enabled the YMCA to integrate work with young people with additional support needs into the wider youth work provided by the organisation. This has been a steep learning curve but something the organisation is very keen to develop further. The value of engaging young people in their own learning and following through with their input cannot be underestimated as this truly gives them an owership over the service.