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Local teenagers reap the benefits of NCS following lockdown

The impact of COVID-19 has been monumental on teenagers, with many missing exams and other rites of passage this summer. We had to adapt our NCS programme accordingly, but we were still able to welcome almost 40 teenagers to Selhurst Park for team building, workshops and social action projects to benefit the local community.

NCS is a youth programme that runs across England and Northern Ireland to engage, unite and empower 15 to 17-year-olds, preparing them to achieve in adult life, regardless of their background.

Week one of the Palace for Life NCS programme featured workshops that were run by the likes of the Amy Winehouse Foundation and Daniel Margo-Spabbs Foundation on drug awareness, mental health and developing social skills in the post-COVID world. There were also sessions on public speaking and communication, CV writing and equality and diversity.

I can honestly say that NCS has done wonders to increase his self-esteem and confidence. I am so proud of what he has achieved in such a short time

Parent of an NCS participant

The impact of the programme has been immediate for some of the young people who took part, with one parent explaining how NCS helped her son who has struggled in the past with anxiety: “I can honestly say that NCS has done wonders to increase his self-esteem and confidence. I witnessed him approaching complete strangers in Crystal Palace Park to explain what they were collecting donations for and why help for mental health was so important. He has even talked about volunteering in the future with your team, with great enthusiasm. Thank you to you and all your team for changing my son for the better, I am so proud of what he has achieved in such a short time.”

During their second week, the young people had the opportunity to plan, create and deliver their very own social action project for the local community. Even with less than a week to plan, all teams were able to create impacting projects that will leave a legacy in the local community.

Speaking about the experience, 16-year-old David said: “It’s helped open my eyes to what is going on in the community. There are a lot of things happening out there that I didn’t consider before and now I will try and do more in my free time to help contribute.”

One of the groups helped to distribute food to vulnerable people and through a combination of a bake sale and a 10km sponsored walk, succeeded in raising over £300. This money was used to help support the local charity Destiny Centre by buying food products and equipment as well as supporting another local charity, Bukka Box that distributes food to the BAME community.

Another of the groups created and provided 50 care packages for young people facing poor mental health, a cause that has been heightened with the impact of COVID-19 and lockdown. The packages included coping items such as personal motivational messages, games and pens. The boxes were distributed by Off the Record – a local charity which specialises in supporting and raising awareness for young people struggling with poor mental health. Whilst also doing this, the team set created a GoFund Me page and held a cake and lemonade stand at Selhurst Park, raising a total of over £500.

Blessing, 16, added: “I used to see myself as a confident person and I like meeting new people, but my social skills have developed more, so NCS is really good for that. I’ve seen that being myself has got a lot of people around me more confident, so it’s developed me to recognise to always be myself and don’t change for anyone.”

All of the teams also supported in some regeneration projects that were arranged by Palace for Life. Wave 1 worked closely with Peony Court to replenish their garden and create a NCS x Palace for Life personalised plaque. Wave 2 partnered with Urban Growth to help transform Ambassador House in Thornton Heath, creating a new community space for all to share and had the opportunity to meet Croydon-born musician Loyle Carner.

Palace for Life Foundation NCS Programme Manager Angelica Nabadda said: “After so many setbacks this summer, where young people in particular have experienced a really traumatic few months, we have been absolutely delighted with how the NCS programme has gone. It has been a true pleasure to watch these young people build their confidence and social skills. The social action projects were devised entirely by them and we were really impressed with the passion they showed in wanting to make a real difference in their community.

“I also want to give a special shout out to all the seasonal staff who worked the programme, through their hard work and commitment all teams have left a lasting legacy on the local community and we are looking forward to contining the great work in autumn!”

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