A letter from our Chair
At this festive season, we would like to extend a heartfelt thank you for your continued support of Youth First as we reflect on another busy year and look forward with anticipation to 2022.
Youth First is one of the leading charities in Lewisham, running 10 youth clubs and adventure playgrounds for 8 to 19s. Our clubs and projects provide a second home to young people who might otherwise lack the support to thrive, with fun activities, practical advice and learning opportunities to help them reach for a better future.
In January we played a significant part in securing over £1m towards the planned redevelopment of Riverside Youth Club with a proposal that includes new sports and wellbeing facilities. We would like to thank all those who pledged and donated. The Council, who is leading on the project, hope to provide an update on next steps soon.
In the spring, at the height of the lockdown we helped young people connect with their peers and with youth workers through virtual youth club sessions and activities. Youth workers also kept in touch with those most alone or at risk, with phone calls and messages. We also distributed food parcels and sourced laptop loans to families without devices at home to tackle food poverty and help young people continue with their schoolwork and stay in touch with friends and family online. The latter was aimed at helping avoid social isolation and the potential negative effects this can have on young people’s mental health.
As well as working online and despite the pandemic we also welcomed 1,889 young people through our doors during 2021.
When restrictions eased, we were quick to open our doors, initially with targeted bubble based socially distanced group work, and from July more widely through a fun-packed summer programme. Funded by Lewisham Council and Phoenix Community Chest, our youth workers led summer play, creativity and sports activities, fun days and trips helping young people heal after long months of Covid deprivation.
In partnership with food charity Legendary Community Club, we served up over 6,000 hot and cold meals to address the food poverty we see every day with some families, something that we have seen rise since the start of the pandemic. Our GLA funded Woodpecker summer carnival was a real highlight, with over 200 young people and families, showcasing months of music making, drama, textile and dance workshops at the youth club. We also secured Deptford Challenge Trust funding for homework support and activities at Deptford Adventure Playground.
Our expert streetbased youth work team, funded by Children In Need, operated throughout lockdown and beyond, meeting over 1,000 young people in shopping precincts, parks and on the streets. They provide essential positive role models to young people who might not use youth clubs, or have dropped out of education or struggle to find employment. By offering sound advice, dissolving tensions and encouraging reengagement with school and work, they act as a vital early intervention resource, including enabling young people to access other support services. Following tragic youth violence incidents in Sydenham in April and in other places this year, we deployed the team as a trauma support unit helping communities deal with the difficult emotions surrounding the tragedies and, alongside other partners addressing concerns about safety.
“If they weren’t there I’d have no-one to talk about stuff with. Helps to get it off my chest, instead of kicking off”. Young person, Aged 14.
We have also seen some big changes in Youth First this year. In April we secured a new Lewisham Council contract to run the youth clubs and 121 emotional wellbeing support service for up to 6 years, a testament to their confidence in us, and a recognition of the power of youth work to inspire positive change. On 7th December, we transferred from being a Community Benefit Society to become a Charitable Incorporated Organisation registered with the Charity Commission in England and Wales. This reinforces our charitable mission and vision in empowering young people and we believe sets us up to better raise income and serve our young people in the future.
With a new Covid variant on the horizon and economic uncertainty, 2022 is likely to be another tough year for the young people, many of whom are vulnerable and have complex lives regardless of the pandemic. As the leading youth services charity in Lewisham, we therefore aim to expand our services in areas such as youth food poverty, mental health and employability to meet this growing need. And for this we need your help.
Why not give generously this festive season so together we can create communities where our young people can thrive?
How you can help
If you can make a financial contribution, anything you can give will make a huge difference to a child’s life.
Provides nutritious hot meals for two young people
Funds materials to run activity sessions for 40 young people
Pays for group-trip of 15 young people, such as go karting
If you prefer to donate by check please make it out to Youth First Charitable Incorporated Organisation, sent to 185 Brookehowse Road London, SE6 3TT. Please ensure to Gift Aid your donation. For every £1 you donate Youth First will receive £1.25. Gift Aid forms can be downloaded here.
With your help, we can continue to put the next generation first. Do please get in touch if you would like to talk more about how together we can build a better future for young people.
On behalf for all the staff and trustees at Youth First, we would like to wish you all the joy of the festive season.
CEO, Youth First
Chair, Youth First