Social investment supports outdoor activity centre to reach disadvantaged inner city young people
By her own admission, Rehna wasn’t the most reliable of young people and struggled to stay engaged. She is from a Pakistani Muslim family living in Ashton-Under-Lyne and says that there really isn’t much for young people from her community to do in Ashton.
About 10 years ago she started attending a local youth project and thanks to the project leader, Adnan, was pushed out of her comfort zone and started taking part in outdoor activities provided by Lindley Educational Trust. She participated in various camping and climbing trips including the 3 peaks challenge, winter skills in the Cairngorms and even went on an expedition to Morocco.
Local authority cuts led to youth violence on the streets
However, sudden funding cuts meant that there was no money for a youth club in Ashton and all the hard work that had been done in building trust in the community started to erode very quickly. The young people were bored and disaffected. The Tameside estate was compared to a ”war zone” in the days and weeks leading up to Bonfire Night as youths, as young as 10, were running wild on the street shooting fireworks with their bare hands.
A young Asian woman is supporting the youth of Ashton-Under-Lyne
After 6 months, Lindley Educational Trust knew they had to step in to reinstate activities for young people in Ashton, particularly from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. They did this with the charity’s own money, working with Adnan, a youth worker, to run a Monday night drop in group, where Rehna started volunteering while she was at university. The young people attending the group were challenging, to say the least, but as Rehna comes from their community, and knows what it’s like to be a young Asian growing up in Ashton, she can relate to them.
A community meeting was called to discuss the violence on the streets of the Tameside estate and Rehna spent 3 weeks talking to the young people to get them to attend. At that meeting she was their spokesperson in a room full of angry adult residents.
Rehna has since become a full-time employee of Lindley, working to deliver outdoor activities for children and young people of all backgrounds and abilities.
New kit store has brought Lindley’s activities forward by 2 years
Lindley has recently built a new kit store with social investment from CAF Venturesome. Without social investment they would not have been able to do this for 2 years. With the extra storage capacity Lindley has been able to expand what activities it can offer to inner city communities.
It now delivers youth activities 5 nights a week in Ashton, including Friday night football that has about 80 young people attending in the summer. The project is supported by BBC Children in Need, the Rank Foundation, Active Communities and Sprayway.
Rehna is starting to organise female sports sessions, including boxing, dancing, netball and football. Young Asian women need to have an environment where they feel safe to relax and enjoy themselves. Rehna can provide that safety as she is part of their community and can also be a confidant for them.
Lindley provides residential outdoor activity programmes for children and young people at its Hollowford Centre in the Peak District National Park, where Rehna also works. When I met her she was teaching children from a school in Wilmslow how to make chapattis and cook them on an open fire.
One of the projects she works to deliver is a Winter Skills Project, which is much more than just a week in the Cairngorms. Over 12 months the young people have to raise £6,000, learn mountaineering skills, at the Hollowford Centre, and plan their expedition. It’s a life changing experience for most of the young people who come from conservative Asian backgrounds. Traditionally, young women don’t get the chance to explore opportunities as they are expected to use their time to learn life skills such as cooking and looking after their families. The young men often don’t get these opportunities either, with the added bonus that they learn some valuable life skills like cooking and cleaning by taking part in this expedition.
Supporting diverse communities
Lindley has also started to offer family residential weekend to the Ashton-Under-Lyne Asian and wider community. Many large families don’t have the time to go away and relax together and this is proving to be a very popular week away in the beautiful Peak District. The “English Sunday lunch” is a real treat.
There is no other residential activity centre that engages so much with diverse communities. Lindley makes sure that diversity is at its heart, not just for the Asian community but for all communities and abilities. They have specialist facilities like an all terrain wheelchair to make sure that the disabled child isn’t just the one taking notes.
So what’s next? Lindley is engaging with the West African and Bhutanese communities in Ashton and has developed a partnership with Christ Church Pitsmoor, near Sheffield, where there is a high level of gang violence and knife crime. They are piloting a project this summer with the whole community, which has several Eastern European families.
Rehna is a once again a vital part of this project, passing on her youth worker skills to older young people in the area so that they can begin to work within their own community.
And Adnan? Adnan is now a policeman and continues his youth work in the evenings.
“Without Lindley I wouldn’t be where I am today. All the opportunities and experiences have helped shape the woman I am today. I will forever be grateful to Lindley and I look forward to many years ahead.” Rehna Yaseen
“CAF Venturesome has enabled the Lindley team to bring forward the work with a wide range of young people by at least 2 years. Without the social investment in our physical resources, the talents of our great team would be constrained and would reach and benefit less vulnerable young people.” Andy Robinson, CEO, Lindley Educational Trust