As a new phase of Teenvine Plus begins this Autumn, we’re taking this opportunity to reflect back on our ‘Summer of Fun’.
This is not simply what happened, it’s also the name given to our free summer programme for young people aged 11-16 with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) and eligible for free school meals in Coventry.
Combining the talents of the Teenvine Plus and Teenvine Plus Next Steps teams, Summer of Fun aimed to lift young people’s spirits, forge new connections between them and offer up some essential life skills.
Each rolling four-day holiday week kicked off with fitness on a Monday, cookery on a Tuesday, wellbeing Wednesdays and a much-needed ‘escape the city’ follow-up on Fridays.
In amongst the action-packed weeks of summer, the gang also said a sad goodbye to project worker Coleman Kerr (below, dressed in yellow) who has a long history working with Teenvine Plus but is now returning to his native Scotland.
We’ve all had a blast and would like to thank our community supporters for making the programme possible: Onside Coaching for helping us get active, Mamacitas Restaurant for providing amazing lunches, Coventry City Council for the hire of accessible mini buses and Moksha Healing for yoga and relaxation techniques. Most of all, thank you to our fantastic young people!
These young people have especially struggled with the isolation of the pandemic. They were already facing some of life’s toughest challenges – disadvantage, low expectations, refusing school, reduced timetables, unmet mental health needs. The pandemic intensified all of these issues.
Under normal circumstances, only seven per cent of young people with learning disabilities and autism leave school and find work*. People with a learning disability are seven times more likely to feel lonely “a lot” than other people**.
Teenvine project workers have been relentless in their focus on getting these disadvantaged teens through the crisis with the increased independence, self-esteem, positive self-image and greater social inclusion that the programme aims to deliver. But they’ve had to do things differently, both on and offline. They also attended Coventry’s Godiva Festival last weekend to share their work.
The project helps connect local teens to ideas, aspirations and skills to build better futures, boosted by a circle of support and the confidence to express themselves and take charge of their lives.
A key ingredient are the ‘buddies’ aged 13-18 who form part of that circle of support, offering invaluable advice and friendship.
When Rhea from Coventry signed up as a ‘buddy’ to young people her age who have a learning disability or autism, she had some idea of what she might be able to do for others… but no idea of the effect it would have on her own life.
“It’s been an eye-opening adventure with people I wouldn’t usually meet – people from different backgrounds, towns and schools. Additionally, it has brought me a sense of a close-knit community that looks out for each other no matter what,” she says.
So we have two ‘asks’ of you, our reader!
- Are you someone or do you know someone who could help a young person on their path through advice, guidance or opportunity? Even small things can make a huge difference, just get in touch.
- Are you a teenager who could join Teenvine Plus as a buddy? We would love to hear from you!
*Local SEND report 2018/19. **Mencap survey, 2019.