Meet the youngsters walking their way to happiness

10 October 2018 | Wales

Gayle Harris

How pioneering youth group’s “Walk and Talk” sessions are helping kids cope with teen challenges.

Teenage years can be tough to navigate, as many young people struggle to deal with concerns about school and family issues, as well as worries about friends and relationships.

In Carmarthen, youth workers have come up with a brilliantly simple way to engage with kids, allowing them to open up about their problems without making them feel uncomfortable. They go for a walk.

“The kids come in from school, have a healthy meal with us and then we head out for a nice walk so they can get off their chest any worries or fears,” explained Carmarthen Youth Project’s Gayle Harris, 46.

“We will go out in a small group of ten and then what tends to happen is we might break off for a confidential chat. The children will want to talk about what is happening in school, what issues they may be having with friends or family.

“We found it is a good way to encourage them to talk as well as get exercise.

“Bullying is always an issue. Last week we had a group of three girls where one always tends to be left out. We tried to give them a different perspective on how that girl might be feeling. Then the girl said to me ‘oh I didn’t think of that’.”

The project is aiming to turn around the lives of hundreds of youngsters with a series of events designed to get them fit and healthy both physically and emotionally.
It’s all part of a wider Health and Wellbeing programme launched in July by the team at the newly renovated drop-in centre in Carmarthen, also known to locals as Dr. M’z and run for youngsters aged between 11 and 15. The centre offers a safe, educational, and fun place for young people to meet.

There are also Wellbeing Wednesdays and Fitness Fridays where the youngsters can do an hour’s exercise or cook a healthy meal. “This week we are doing yoga, but next month I think it will be circuit training. Every other Friday our girls will also go off and play football with Carmarthen Football Club. Then the kids will go off and cook something tasty using fruit and vegetables from an allotment that we also maintain.”

Meanwhile, another strand of the programme, funded by the Police and Crime Commission and developed with the help of Welsh Women’s Aid, aims to teach the youngsters about healthy relationships. “With our project we have called ‘Star’ we want to show how to navigate relationships between friends, family and at school,” said Gayle who has been working at the centre for 21 years.
“It’s good to talk about how to get on at school and avoid bullying for example, or maybe they want guidance on how to better their relationship with their parents. Altogether we aim to work with 300 youngsters on the Health and Wellbeing programme.”

The centre has this year been chosen as a TSB Local Charity Partner by the Carmarthen branch.

“The team at TSB do so much for us, raising money,” said Gayle. “Once a year we try and do something back like cook for them.”

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