Youth Connect, one of three youth work partners that form the Walsall Youth in Unity Project, has delivered over 650 activity packs across the borough to address boredom and isolation of young people in the wake of the pandemic lockdown.
The packs, which are designed to be age appropriate, contain Youth Connect’s COVID-19 information booklet, colouring in worksheets, smartphone pop sockets, pens and stationery, gliders, kites, bubbles, a gardening activity pack, make it yourself games, arts and crafts packs and much more. Pleck Youth Centre has become a distribution hub with help from partner organisations Walsall Housing Group (whg) and Walsall for All, a partnership programme between the Council, voluntary groups, the public and private sectors, amongst others, have funded the project.
Rizwan Ahmed, Director at Youth Connect, said: “Young people spoke to us about some of the issues they were having at home, including lack of resources, information and general boredom. We wanted to help our young people and their families so decided activity bags would be a great way of supporting some of those families most in need across the borough. The project was initially to support 80 young people, but currently we have supported over 650 thanks to the support of Walsall Housing Group and Walsall for All.”
Rizwan says that COVID-19 has been a challenge for Youth Connect, having had a significant impact on the services the project normally offers, such as centre based sports activities and detached street based youth work. However, for young people, the pandemic has brought multitude of challenges: “The initial novelty of being off from school or college has worn off and young people are yearning for some form of normality. There have been many difficulties young people and their families have faced during the pandemic, be it issues around home schooling, people struggling with isolation, financial issues, anxiety and general mental health.
“Young people's reaction has been amazing, some have even become emotional and can’t believe that others are thinking about them. People are often touched by the kindness of others. It’s great to witness so many positive reactions to work we are doing.”
Despite the challenges and hardships that the pandemic has brought to many people, Rizwan is positive about the future and what we can learn from the crisis: “We are at a moment in time where the old rule book has been flung out and we are re-writing how and what we do with the future. There is lots we have learnt so far and lot more we need to learn going into the future. To be able to take the lows and aim to come back higher. Life will always throw challenges, but we are always judged in how we handle those challenges.”
Councillor Garry Perry, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Communities, said: “I was glad I was able to play a small part in supporting this initiative by packing and delivering a few of the activity packs recently. The young people were genuinely appreciative they were being thought of and as we reset the future post-lockdown connectivity will be the key to mindfulness and well–being.”
For more information on Youth Connect, or to request a pack, please visit www.youthconnect.org.uk.