It was with a mixture of celebration and sadness that Blackburn Rovers Community Trust said goodbye to the Summer 2016 NCS intake at their end of course 'graduation' night.
Celebration... for the wonderful achievements that this motivated group of teenagers managed to pull off in aid of multiple good causes in our town. Sadness... that we only get to work with them once!
Hailing from all over Lancashire, the latest participants in the National Citizen Service programme numbered around 80 in total, and used the skills they learned in the first fortnight of their schedule to go out fundraising and donating during their second fortnight, under the guidance of our inspirational coordinators and group leaders.
As is the custom on this innovative concept - aimed primarily at school leavers or college-aged students - the first week was spent on an outward bound experience at Lakeside YMCA in Windermere. Raft building, canoeing, challenge courses and much more took the youngsters out of their comfort zone, and helped them to achieve things they'd never managed before.
A second week of unusual experiences saw them head south to the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, where they experienced life as a student - which included having to cook and budget for themselves! While they were there, superb motivational speaker Ross McWilliam took the group under his wing and helped to bring out more of their inner confidence, as well as enjoying some relaxing and socialising during bingo nights, quizzes, bake-offs and a bit of football thrown in for good measure.
The third phase brought the youngsters back to Ewood Park to plan social action projects in small groups, raising funds to help causes close to their heart. Thousands of pounds were generated through sponsored walks from Brockhall to Ewood Park, a football tournament at the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre, a 'sit in every seat challenge' at the stadium and a fundraising shoot-out at Blackburn Youth Zone.
Financial support and donations from organisations such as GAME, Morrisons and Living Waters Church were a great boost to the overall objectives, which saw the groups make the following valuable donations during their fourth and final week:
- Group One: Provided a tea party and bingo for residents at Branch Court Care Home on Livesey Branch Road, as well as donating a commemorative Rovers shirt, flowers and an iPad Air to allow residents to contact their relatives.
- Group Two: Created health packs containing underwear, toothbrushes, sanitary equipment, etc to NightSafe, for the benefit of their vulnerable service users in Blackburn.
- Group Three: Donated table tennis equipment and speakers to add to the entertainment provision for those seeking shelter at NightSafe.
- Group Four: Purchased board games to keep patients entertained and as happy as possible during their stay in the children's ward at Blackburn Hospital.
- Group Five: Created grab bags for the 55 residents at Bramwell House and put on refreshments for an afternoon for everyone at the Salvation Army facility, donating all surplus funds towards purchasing a shed for use in their garden.
- Group Six: Purchased and delivered food for distribution at NightSafe, including spending time with those there to offer support.
There was an undoubted confidence in the air as the participants said their farewells to one another at the Legends Lounge celebration event, but not without having created potential friends for life in various groups.
Their new skills were praised too, with sample comments from the recruits including "NCS has been absolutely amazing and has changed the way I think completely" and "I'm not scared of heights anymore; I'm not scared of anything!".
If you want to change your life for the better and fall into the 16 to 18-year-old age group, we're recruiting now for the next major NCS intake at forthcoming holiday periods. Find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
or by picking up an application form at the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre.