On The Right Road

15 October 2019 | North East England

People on electric bikes

Charity that uses drones and off-road quad bikes to reach vulnerable young people

When it comes to helping some of the most vulnerable and difficult to reach youngsters in our society, it helps to keep one step ahead.

That is why Youth Almighty - based in Sunderland - have invested in an off-road quad bike, five electric mountain bikes as well as a number of drones.

They use the technology to first locate and then head out and reach those who might be in trouble in one of the more rural parts outside the city.

Now when they get a call for help from someone in the community, a team from Youth Almighty can get to places far quicker than before. Often the young people just need a guiding hand home or shoulder to cry on, rather than any serious intervention from the emergency services.

Phil Tye, from the charity explains: “These are young people who might have gotten into a fight, or they have taken some substance, alcohol or drugs and are lost. We will get a call from a member of the public, a friend or maybe even the police, and the quad bikes and e-bikes mean we can get to them really quickly and make them safe.”

That is the extreme end of the scale. Youth Almighty work with a cross-section of young people across Sunderland and its outskirts. Their core aim is to provide a warm, safe and welcoming environment to young people by providing centre based youth work from a number of locations. But they also operate detached youth work sessions by sending out their workers onto the streets and known “hotspots”to work with the young people within their own territory.

They particularly support young people who are NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training) and provide impartial and personalised interventions that ensure young people make informed choices including help with cvs and interviews.

The founders of the group set up 12 years ago after seeing there was nothing else in the area for their kids to engage with in a positive sense.

But unlike other youth groups they quickly realised they had to adjust to modern times and the needs of young people today. A regular youth club was just not going to cut it.

“The old-fashioned methods were not going to work, in terms of engaging with local youth,” says Phil. “We had to push the boundaries and think progressively. How could we get kids on board, how could we reach them, and how could we get them to be active and willing to be involved?”

They realised that the youngsters had to get stuck in at a root and branch level and feel fully involved. “I have always said that if you get the young people involved at a higher level then they will have more respect for the organisation. They feel like it is theirs and then if someone goes out of line or is rude they will not accept that kind of behaviour. And the upshot is, they take that respect and discipline back into the wider community.”

Day to day, Youth Almighty is making a difference on a very local level to stop anti social behaviour. They work six days a week and a normal night session might see up to 100 youngsters turn up, all aged between 11 and 19. And it is working.

As Phil says: “We have feedback from the police that anti-social behaviour in this area has reduced significantly over the last five years. We have seen the reports and there is direct evidence that what we are doing here is impacting the wider community.”

Not only that, but through their many sport initiatives they have introduced youngsters to opportunities that might otherwise be out of reach in a deprived area like the Coalfields of Sunderland. Tennis for example, which had previously been seen as an elite sport. But many of their members have taken up the sport with gusto.

Phil is particularly proud of one family whom they have embraced: “This year we took three brothers down to London to a tennis final at Wimbledon, they were part of a wider group of fifteen kids who travelled. But these three boys had never been to the capital before. The furthest they had ever been from their home was Hartlepool which is just 15 miles away. So that was a huge deal.

“They were so excited. Not just about the tennis game, but being able to see London too. They had no concept how big it was. We took them on the London Eye,  and they scanned the view to see if they could see their home from up there! I get such a buzz working with these kids, it is great to make a difference and see their development.”

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