9 September 2021

YMCA Newcastle has been awarded #iwillFunding from the Virgin Money Foundation to support our local community post Covid, addressing the lasting impact of the pandemic. The project will be lead by a steering group made up of local young people. Throughout the pandemic we supported the community with our Help Hub project; preparing food hampers and activity packs, providing tailored 1:1 support around poverty, destitution, health, relationships and money management. We also delivered weekly youth and community activities with the aim of supporting beneficiaries to overcome isolation, improve their personal resilience and maintain good well-being throughout the pandemic. Some young people from our youth project volunteered to assist with the preparation of activity packs and food parcels and found their experiences to be particularly rewarding given that they were volunteering to address issues in the community arising from the Covid outbreak of which they had direct experience, such as destitution, isolation, grief and unemployment.

The area already experiences high levels of poverty and many have faced food poverty and increased isolation and poor well-being- especially for those who were shielding, or families who were home-schooling. Additionally, disadvantaged young people in these areas have faced further detriments to their educational attainment and future employability as a result of school and college closures and disruption to school exams and transitions.

Young people in the steering group have already identified the community’s key needs as being access to food and social activities and support with poor well-being and mental health as a result of having volunteered within our Help Hub programme. They plan to deliver weekly food parcels and recipe cards to people in the community who are shielding or who have been referred to us and are experiencing food poverty and destitution. To support the community to overcome isolation and improve their well-being as restrictions begin to lift, young people will also put on socially-distanced events in open public spaces such as the local park. These could include: family games and activities, community shows and competitions and events making use of the mobile bike ramps and tracks.

During the planning meeting, young people agreed that a project steering group led by a small group of young people would be established with the role of working alongside youth workers to plan and co-ordinate volunteering opportunities for young people across the project, and managing the project’s activities budget. Young people will therefore be at the heart of the project’s management and delivery throughout the 18-month period.

Young people will access relevant accreditation opportunities to support them in their volunteering throughout the programme and improve their employability throughout the programme- including Safeguarding and First Aid training, Sports Activator leader and coaching awards, Voltech bike maintenance qualifications, and the JAS personal development awards. Young people will also lead consultations on how best to support the community with food poverty long-term, beyond food parcels.

The #iwill Fund is made possible thanks to £50 million joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action opportunities. The #iwill Fund brings together a group of organisations who all contribute funding to embed meaningful social action into the lives of young people. Social action involves activities such as campaigning, fundraising and volunteering, all of which enable young people to make a positive difference in their communities as well as develop their own skills and knowledge. The #iwill Fund supports the aims of the #iwill campaign – to make involvement in social action a part of life for young people, by recognising the benefit for both young people and their communities. By bringing together funders from across different sectors and by making sure that young people have a say in where the funding goes – the #iwill Fund is taking a collaborative approach.