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15 December 2021

South Tyneside charity helps youngsters in difficulty

A local charity supporting young people experiencing hardship or at risk of homelessness in South Tyneside has been supporting its residents’ mental health and wellbeing with exercise activities and therapeutic gardening sessions.

South Tyneside Churches Key Project is helping more than 20 vulnerable young people, aged 16-24, through its Healthy Body, Healthy Mind programme.

It provides residents living in the charity’s three supported housing facilities across the borough, with sport and exercise classes including circuit training, HIIT workouts, weight lifting and boxing sessions, which are combined with healthy eating, cooking and nutritional education workshops.

Key Project resident and a keen amateur boxer, Callum Scott, 19, was referred to the charity by his social worker after a family relationship breakdown and getting into trouble with the Police.

He says the Key Project has helped him to find the right path and the Healthy Body, Healthy Mind activities have been a lifeline, especially during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Callum explains: “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Key Project. They have supported me in so many ways. They’ve taught me how to be self-sufficient, helped me to rebuild relationships, work on my self-esteem, get a job and move into my own flat.

“During lockdown I wasn’t working, it was lonely and the restrictions were tough. Having access to the weight training and boxing equipment at Key Project really helped my mental health. I’ve also been able to do 1-2-1 sessions, the training has kept me fit and focused during a difficult year.”

South Tyneside Churches Key Project invested in new exercise equipment and trained its staff to coach workout sessions through a £5,000 grant from Rise and the Young People Forward Project.

Rise, the charity that works with communities across Northumberland and Tyne & Wear to improve access to sport and physical activities, is supporting young homeless people in the region.

Lisa Coates, progression coach at Key Project, said: “The funding we’ve received from Rise has been instrumental in enabling us to give our young residents extra support and new experiences they wouldn’t normally have.

“Physical activity is essential for our young people to socialise, be active and for good mental health. Our residents are on universal credit, they can’t afford a gym membership. With the Rise funding we’ve been able to host gym and circuit training sessions, buy new equipment and host gardening therapy sessions. When lockdown restrictions eased, we also took the group on an outdoor adventure day. They loved the challenge, thrived on supporting each other doing activities that took them out of their comfort zones, including abseiling, an assault course and axe throwing.

“The Rise funding has allowed us to deliver something different and training our staff in the Healthy Body, Healthy Mind programme, will allow us to continue this work beyond the funding and create a legacy that many more young people will benefit from.”

Rise is distributing funds from a £75,000 grant it secured via the London Marathon Charitable Trust to deliver the Young People Forward project in this area.

The initiative uses sport to improve the physical and mental health, self-esteem and resilience of young people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Rise is currently working with eight local organisations supporting vulnerable youngsters, including South Tyneside Churches Key project, Crisis Newcastle and the Albert Kennedy Trust.

Ruth Nicholson, empowering people strategic lead at Rise, explains: “It is extremely sad that homelessness continues to be so widespread in our society. We are pleased to support Key Project and our regional partners to create new physical activity offers for the vulnerable young people they support.

“The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequalities faced by many young people. This project uses the power of physical activity, collaboration and learning to help mitigate the factors that are causing young people to experience homelessness or find themselves at risk of it.”

Funded by Virgin Money through the London Marathon Trust, the Young People Forward project aims to work with just under 600 young people who are either homeless or at risk of homelessness while also developing a programme model that can be rolled out to inspire activity in many more.

The funding is distributed by Active Partnerships and Street Soccer Scotland to seven delivery partners in the North of England and Scotland, to provide physical activity sessions in 11 areas: Merseyside, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Humber, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Tyne & Wear, Northumberland, Edinburgh, West Lothian and Glasgow.

“The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated the inequalities faced by many young people. This project uses the power of physical activity, collaboration and learning to help mitigate the factors that are causing young people to experience homelessness or find themselves at risk of it.”

Ruth Nicholson, Empowering People Strategic Lead, Rise