As a population, we seem to be getting lazier and larger and I worry about the future. The generation we are raising are sheltered and inactive. Playing outside has been replaced by video gaming, sat unmoving eating snack after snack after snack.
Parents feel worried about letting their children out. Roads are busier, crime and violence are on the rise and nowhere seem safe to let them out to be kids. Yet groups that have been set up to help get children outside and active and teaching them new skills or opportunities, are being closed due to lack of funding or volunteers, or even health and safety and paperwork issues.
I look back at my childhood. How I used to roam the mountains and the beach surrounding my home, alone or with friends. My parents were cub and scout leaders and I would have to accompany them on outings and camp-outs, even though I wasn’t allowed to join in as girls weren’t at the time.
Now I look at my teenagers. Each is in their own bedrooms socialising with their friends via their phone or Xbox with no inclination to go out. In the town we live in, there’s not much for teenagers to do, especially now the local youth clubs are being closed due to lack of funding.
So what can we do to get these teenagers off their electronics and out learning new skills and taking part in new opportunities that they wouldn’t ordinarily have the chance to do?
This is where the National Citizen Service (NCS) can come in!
Don’t let the name put you off. It does sound a bit scary. But when you learn more, it sounds like a lot of fun and a great opportunity for teenagers
What is the National Citizen Service?
The NCS is a government-backed programme established in 2011 to help build a more cohesive, mobile and engaged society. By bringing together young people from different backgrounds for a unique shared experience, NCS helps them to become better individuals, and in turn better citizens.
NCS is open to 16 and 17 year-olds across England and Northern Ireland. The two to four-week programme, which takes place in school holidays, includes outdoor team-building exercises, a residential for participants to learn ‘life skills’, a community-based social action project and an end of programme celebration event.
At a time of huge political uncertainty, where division is more evident than togetherness, NCS is a powerful tool to ensure the next generation see more in their similarities than differences.
In a nutshell, the programme:
- Puts young people through a series of challenging activities to take them out of their comfort zones and develop their strength of character.
- Provides a progressive journey that hands over more responsibility to young people as the programme progresses and develops leadership skills necessary to succeed in the workplace.
- Enables young people to connect with their communities through social action.
● Almost 400,000 young people have taken part
● More than seven million hours of community action have been completed
● For every £1 spent, NCS’ 2016 summer programme delivered between £1.15 and £2.42 of benefits back to society
NCS is amazing value for money. The whole experience including food, accommodation and travel costs just £50 and bursaries are available on a case by case basis. Support is also provided for young people with additional needs.
They even have a celebration evening!
The NCS is building a movement that is changing lives and helping to tackle some of our country’s biggest social challenges. They believe that if you give young people the right tools, opportunities and respect they will change the world around them.
They are driven by the ambition that every young person should have the opportunity to take part in NCS, building a generation who see themselves not as passengers in society, but as drivers.
NCS aims to keep growing so that they are a rite of passage for all 16-17-year-olds, transforming communities by engaging generations of young people.
Ryan has only just turned 15, but next year, as soon as his GCSE’s are over I am going to encourage him to attend. It certainly sounds like an amazing, once in a lifetime opportunity for him to have fun, make new friends, build his confidence and learn life skills that can’t be taught in a classroom.
Ryan also suffers from anxiety, but that shouldn’t be an obstacle as support is provided and they will take his needs into account. By helping him gain confidence and build his self-esteem and feelings of worth and achievement, the NCS should help him as he goes out into the real world and loses some of the support systems he has in place now because of his age. Which in turn should help his anxiety and his feelings of worthlessness.
To Find out More or Sign Up
This year more than 100,000 teenagers from different backgrounds will come together in common purpose on NCS. That means one in six of 16-year-olds will live together, develop skills together and build community projects together.
Whilst summer can be a busy time in our lives, as we try to juggle childcare, work and holidays, it doesn’t matter. Whatever your commitments during the summer break, they will endeavour to get your teen a spot on the programme at a time that suits you. They will work around your lives rather than you working around theirs!
There are still places available for Year 11s to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity this summer.
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