Around 350 young people and their families filled the Citygate Centre in Bournemouth for two nights of NCS (National Citizen Service) graduations, led by BCHA.
The 15-17 year olds all successfully completed the government’s youth empowerment programme this summer, coming together to try new things, meet new people and challenge themselves to make a difference to their community – and volunteering nearly 10,000 hours to local social action projects in the process.
Bournemouth-based charity organisation BCHA, which has been helping homeless and vulnerable people for 50 years, is the largest provider of the NCS in the Poole and Bournemouth area.
The programme began with a residential adventure course – spent in Bristol or Aldershot – in which teams of 15 from a mix of genders, schools and backgrounds were taken ‘out of their comfort zone’ with challenging activities such as canoeing, climbing, orienteering and caving.
This phase of the programme develops key skills such as teamwork, communication and leadership as the groups learn to work together.
The next stage saw the young people spend a week in Bournemouth University halls of residence, where they developed valuable life skills, such as being responsible for budgeting, buying and preparing their own meals.
The graduates also attained a first aid qualification valid for the next three years.
The final two weeks of the NCS course challenge the participants to use all of the skills they have developed in the early stages of the programme.
Designed to get the young people looking at their communities and thinking about things they would like to change, the were charged with finding and approaching a social action project in need of assistance.
This often daunting process sees the students having to plan their project and officially ‘pitch’ it to BCHA leaders in a formal, Dragon’s Den-style scenario – drawing on all their new found skills as a team.
They must also completely fund their work, and this summer’s cohort did this through a wide variety of events including bake sales and sponsored events, including a walk from Boscombe Pier to Hengistbury Head – which raised a total of £6987.72
NCS Programme Mentor Matt Sanders told the graduation audience: “Some of the many projects which were helped by NCS this summer included Dorset MIND, Bournemouth War Memorial Homes and Ferndown Youth Centre, with some really fantastic projects including the revamping of a children’s play area and well received activity sessions at local care homes.
“Everyone embraced the challenge and threw themselves completely into the tasks, making a real difference to the organisations they were helping, and also to their own confidence and skills.”
Most of the young people were joined at the graduation ceremonies by proud parents, guardians and other family members.
Presentations were followed by commemorative photographs and the chance to mingle and enjoy a fun photo booth.
NCS Programme Leader Anna Garrett said: “Our Summer NCS Graduation is always a really positive occasion and we love celebrating everything the young people have achieved with us.
“Lots of them have really grown in confidence and you can see how the teams have bonded together.”
She added: “All of our participants this year have thrown themselves into every new challenge and have made an incredible difference to lots of local charities.
“We are genuinely really proud of them and know they will go on to do amazing things.”
Individual awards were also given to graduates who had overcome personal challenges during the programme.
Leah Senner, 16, from Bournemouth received a Biggest Transformation award for overcoming her personal fears and anxieties to complete the course.
Leah, who suffered leukaemia as a young child, said: “When they gave a presentation on NCS in assembly at my school, the Bourne Academy, I wasn’t sure about it.
“For one I had never been away from my family and I was nervous about all the challenges we would be doing. But I’m so glad I did it.
“I met so many people and overcame a lot of fears. It was great being part of a team and to have the surprise tonight of winning a personal award too has been really shocking, but really lovely.
“I would recommend NCS to anyone. It’s an amazing experience and when I am 18 I hope to become a leader and help other young people experience it.”
Anna Garrett added: “Leah’s achievements through NCS are an excellent example of the huge value of this programme.
“BCHA is proud and privileged to be part of what is for many of these young people, a life-changing experience.”
Media information: Debbie Granville on 07884 657782 or email: Debbie.firstname.lastname@example.org