Youth Work in Wales has been through a thoroughly eventful journey over the last year as have many sectors! As many saw the furlough scheme as a way to safeguard their organisations, we, at Carmarthen Youth Project (or Dr Mz as known to the Community, after one of the group’s early champions, local GP, Dr Margaret Evans) were lucky to be backed by our funders to continue to support young people through what seemed to many like an apocalyptic event.
At the beginning of lockdown, we weren’t prepared. The I.T. wasn’t good enough, the communication wasn’t good enough… but we ploughed on. The staff team met up on Zoom (what was that??) and discussed our options. We had to be really creative and think ‘outside the box’ of our normal routine!
In the end, we decided we would hold youth club virtually, on Zoom, 4 days a week, hand deliver recipe packages to compliment live cooking and Tiktok cooking videos with recipe cards to the young people. Our activity packs grew to be arts and crafts, health and well-being, environmental and digitally themed.
We posted challenges and competitions on Facebook and did a virtual walk across America using the World Walking app for Youth Work Week in 2020.
We sent out over 1000 activity packs and food parcels, ran Health and Well-being sessions and made gardening and food growing vlogs
We also did some online, inter-generational activity sessions with Carmarthenshire 50+ Network -sharing skills with each other and making friends. That was a great experience for all!
In August we went back into the centre and re-started our face to face youth sessions with restricted numbers of young people in line with Welsh Government Guidelines – and much of it was outside during the summer.
Unfortunately, we had to return to an online (but much improved!) youth club for the firebreak and Christmas lockdown and employed Chris, our new Digital Youth Worker to support this.
We were successful with an Awards for All Lottery grant to set up our LGBTQ youth group too and we were surprised with an online interview with Rhod Gilbert for the Lottery campaign with Joe Wilkinson. That was great fun! Thanks Rhod!
Young People helped others
At Christmas, young people made up 15 Christmas Dinner Hampers for disadvantaged young people who were living independently. These young people were nominated by us and the Post 16 team in County Youth Support Services. We also were able to make hampers for 50+ Network members in need as part of the intergenerational project too.
Our Christmas Party was cancelled due to lockdown so we cooked dinner at the centre and delivered a take away to 28 young people where we ate together online and played games before we finished for Christmas.
Quality in Youth Work
In December 2020, after a lot of hard work on our submission to the Education Workforce Council for the Welsh Government Youth Work Quality Mark Bronze Level, we achieved it. Hurray!
Now we’re back!
It’s great to be back, although with limited numbers. The young people have been really good at sticking to the rules and we are enjoying exciting activities funded by The National Lottery’s Climate Action Boost Programme and supported by Renew Wales.
We have been painting a mural about climate change on the front of the building, building a solar–powered bench with Sam Holt (from Eggseeds and a Renew Wales mentor) and teaching young people to ride a bike safely with our new bikes.
Projects still to come are the Cob Pizza oven in our garden so we can make pizzas with our home- grown fresh ingredients and building a SUD Planter to help stop our carpark flooding!
We have changed our environmental practices quite significantly since we had this grant. We sent out environmental activity packs with bamboo toothbrushes, shampoo bars, metal straws- all were gratefully received and it all helps raise awareness.
We have started buying environmentally friendly and bio-degradable cleaning products at the youth centre and started composting our food waste from the café using a Bokashi system.
We’re had a feature written about us on Wales Online and Lifeseeker Magazine and we were also featured on the Prynhawn Da Programme on S4C!
The young people are loving the environmental awareness project and we hope it will attract more funding in the future as well as helping improve everyone’s knowledge and scope to make small changes.
It has been a rollercoaster of a journey during 2020/2021- but we are still here and going strong!
Written by Gayle Harris, Project Manager at Carmarthen Youth Project (Dr Mz)