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Learning to Take on the Challenge – do you dare?

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Action4Youth Animal Antiks
Action4Youth - Animal Antiks (Jack Mitchell is pictured with his face painted)

Action4Youth, an energetic youth charity that provides positive, often transformational experiences and activities, works to enable young people of all abilities and disabilities to learn to challenge themselves – learning what they can achieve rather than what they can’t. 

Confidence, self-belief, and people skills are not traits that come naturally to young people with learning disabilities and Special Educational Needs (SEN), so it’s easy to see how they can become self-conscious, isolated and afraid to try new things. One youth charity is working with SEN students, taking them out of their comfort zone and opening their eyes to the possibilities and opportunities that life has to offer. 

Jack Mitchell is 16 and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with autistic traits, which means that whilst he’s very sociable, Jack struggles to interact appropriately. Growing up, Jack always found it difficult to fit in at school and has never established a group of friends. 

Jack’s Mum, Mel recently heard about the National Citizen Service run by Action4Youth, a national voluntary personal and social development programme for 16–17-year-olds. “A friend’s daughter took part in the course and said how fantastic it was and how much confidence and self-assurance it had given her,” explains Mel. “Jack was very sceptical at first, he told me he was nervous about going because he didn’t know anyone, but I knew that if we could encourage him to go along and give it a try that he would really enjoy it. 

“By the end of the first week he was buzzing. He was full of excitement and stories of new friendships and a social trip that he had planned for the Saturday, he didn’t want to come home! 

“It wasn’t just the social side,” continues Mel, “he loved all of the activities too, and taking part in things he’d never done before, especially the Dragon’s Den experience and working for a charity.” 

Action4Youth’s NCS programme provides young people with the opportunity to challenge themselves, overcome some of their fears and develop their teamwork, leadership and communication skills. 

The programme shows young people the significant impact they can make by getting involved in their local community via social action projects. 

Action4Youth’s NCS Project Manager, Emily Davis explains: “At the start of the three week programme we divide the young people up into teams of 15. 

“The first week is a residential camp focusing on outdoor activities, such as climbing and paddle-boarding. The purpose of this week is to build confidence and teach new skills. 

“The second week is another residential camp closer to home, where they complete their first aid qualification and start planning their social action projects, which they then present to a Dragon’s Den style panel. 

“During the third week, the groups get the chance to carry out their projects.” 

Among the many successful projects, this year was one at Animal Antiks, an Animal Assisted Learning Centre in Aylesbury, where a group worked to build a new enclosure and helped with preparations for Animal Antiks move to larger premises. 

“We are an inclusive charity that believes in offering every young person the opportunity to learn, develop and grow,” explains Emily. “The change in some of the students from when they arrive to when they leave the NCS course is unbelievable, and it is as exciting and rewarding for us as it is for the young people on the programme and their families.”

For further information and to sign-up to take part in an NCS course visit www.action4youth.org/national-citizen-service.

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