Having recently completed the ASIST course (suicide first aid) I am acutely aware of the high incidence of suicide here in the UK, as in other countries. I am also conscious of the impact that it can have on families and friends. Many of us personally know people who have been affected in this way.
So it was particularly timely to read today of a nine-year-old from Southend, Essex (UK) who – two years on from his father’s suicide – has only just managed to come to terms with the loss, and has now begun a fundraising bid in his memory.
Ben Gotts suffered from severe depression, and despite having a deep bond with his young son Mason, took his own life in 2011, shortly after being released from a mental health unit. Mason and his mother Lisa were devastated by the tragedy, and it is only very recently that the young lad has felt able to visit his father’s grave. On doing so, he was disappointed to see that it was marked simply by a small plastic sign, whereas all the surrounding graves had headstones. He made up his mind to rectify this, and is planning to raise £1000 for “a big black headstone” with the inscription “Thank you for being my daddy. I love you loads.”
So he will be undertaking a 12-mile beach fundraising walk this month, from Shoeburyness to Chalkwell (and back), on what would have been his father’s 41st birthday. A touching tribute, and one which definitely deserves support. To sponsor Mason, call Lisa (07453 323410) or email her at email@example.com. Any excess funds raised will be donated to Southend Mind.
And while we are on the subject of suicide… if you ever get the chance to take the ASIST course (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training), I would highly recommend it. One day you might come across someone contemplating suicide, and you could perhaps be instrumental in saving their life, if you have been suitably trained. Check out LivingWorks’ main (Canadian) website at www.livingworks.net for further details.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you will be aware that where I live in Port Talbot we have been creating a community garden, in memory of lives lost at the nearby steel works. Yesterday we were joined for an hour by several members of Swansea’s rugby team, the Ospreys, to shift several tons of topsoil, in order that planting could finally begin. As the work proceeded, the subject of youth volunteering came up, and how – despite the negative press that young people so often get – there are many around the country who are doing a fantastic job of supporting their local communities.
And as if further evidence was needed that youth volunteering is alive and well, here in this part of the UK, I read today about an excellent initiative organised in North Wales, over Easter, by Student Volunteering Bangor (SVB) – part of Bangor University Students’ Union. Eighteen students from the University, joined by two from Aberystwyth University, spent a week living and working at the Felin Uchaf social enterprise near Aberdaron, on the Lleyn Peninsula, where they helped erect a new timber-framed building, destined to house a library, archive and visitor centre. They also participated in land-management tasks such as willow coppicing, dry stone walling and planting, as well as traditional cooking.
For the last nine years the Felin Uchaf charity has been renovating a traditional Welsh farmhouse and its surrounding lands into a community enterprise and visitor centre, where they explore and promote green business initiatives and rural enterprises, and other ways of living in harmony with the environment.
This was the first such event organised by SVB, which was encouraged by the warm welcome the volunteers received at Felin Uchaf, and the team-working experience that the project gave the students, who came from a variety of backgrounds and cultures. It’s always great to hear such examples of how young people are helping to create a harmonious and sustainable future for society, and especially here in Wales. Well done, SVB!
And of course… many thanks to the Ospreys team members for their hard work at the garden, yesterday, despite the slightly adverse weather!
Award winners with West Dorset District Council chairwoman Gillian Summers.
Throughout January, and into mid-February, residents of West Dorset were invited to nominate young people and groups from the county who had made a difference to their community by voluntarily giving of their time to help locally. The achievements of the nominees were then honoured a fortnight ago at an event entitled ‘Chairman’s Awards: Young Volunteer Champions’, held at the West Dorset District Council Offices, South Walks House, Dorchester.
The Young Community Champion award, for an individual aged 13-18, went jointly to Jess Element from Dorchester and Jacob Neal from Beaminster. Jess supports local young swimmers, is an active member of numerous swimming groups, clubs and sessions, and now trains and teaches regularly. Jacob cares for his mother and is an adult leader with the Scout Association, where he has been volunteering for the last ten years.
The Senior Young Champion award, for an individual aged 19-25, was won by Freddie Higgs from Cerne Abbas. Freddie is a young adult leader at Cerne Valley Youth Club and Cerne Abbas Scout Group. Freddie took full responsibility for running the club and its fundraising activities when the leader fell ill last year.
The Youth Group Champion award went to Sherborne Skate Park Group, who campaigned for three years to keep their skate park open, while they raised £187,000 in order to replace it with a new modern one.
In presenting the awards Council Chairwoman Gillian Summers said: “I want to congratulate all the people nominated for Young Volunteer Champion awards. We had so many worthy entries. I am delighted to thank these fantastic young people in this way for the help they have given to their community. It is brilliant that so many are prepared to give their time to make a real difference.”
Last week two teens from Grantham, South Kesteven (Lincolnshire, UK) were recognised for their coaching and volunteering work in the sport of badminton.
Photo (L-R): Laura Graves, Badminton England player of the year Chris Adcock, and Tracey Lamb.
Laura Graves and Tracey Lamb were named Young Coach of the Year and Young Volunteer of the Year, respectively, at the National Badminton Awards on Friday 15 March, at the Birmingham International Convention Centre.
Laura qualified as a Level One coach just under a year ago, and gives weekly badminton sessions at her school, KGGS, where she is the appointed student badminton officer, as well as running BISI festivals for primary schoolchildren and coaches at South Kesteven Badminton Academy. In addition, she coaches at junior holiday camps, helps organise a weekly pay and play adult session, and is involved with the sports charity Inspire+.
Tracey is also involved with the Inspire+ student leadership programme, through which she has organised a training session for 250 young ambassadors and delivered a presentation to Lord Coe. She is also joint organiser (and a lead presenter) of the East Midlands Young Leaders Camp, which is now in its third year, and is a member of the Youth Sport Trust Ambassador National Steering Group.
A grant-making programme is seeking to improve the lot of young people in deprived areas of the North of England. The Archbishop of York Youth Trust, which was set up by Dr John Sentamu in 2009, supports and partners with a variety of projects. It has set up a Young Leaders Award Scheme – this combines classroom learning with practical, community-based activities, and encourages young people to make a positive difference locally.
Last month students from Gateways School, Harewood, Yorkshire visited St Gemma’s Hospice, Leeds, as part of the Award Scheme. They toured the hospice and its gardens, and took part in a quiz about the charity, which has over 600 volunteers, but costs well in excess of £20k per day to run. The school has selected the Youth Trust as one of the charities it wishes to support this year, and year 8/9 pupils are participating in its Award Scheme.
The Chreda Foundation – which also focuses on young people, and particularly their spiritual development – also operates as a grant-making body, and at the end of this year it will be launching a Prize Award Scheme. The Foundation, too, is especially keen to encourage leadership qualities in young people.