YOUTHFULNESS | Disadvantaged teens blossoming in return to normal life

The fourth Coventry City of Culture energy in our series this week is Youthfulness and the obvious choice for our work reflecting this youthfulness is of course Teenvine!

Young people in Coventry with Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) have especially struggled with the isolation of the pandemic.

Teenvine project workers have been relentless in their focus on getting 23 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 it differently.

Photos from Teenvine at Grapevine in 2020 and 2021
Photos from the past few weeks

Mobilising online in March 2020, the team provided support to the youngsters and their families to ensure they had the digital skills to continue to take part.

Weekly meet-ups were co-designed with the young people and quickly evolved into a whole selection of opportunities to connect with their peers, including:

Discord and WhatsApp were added to develop special interest chat groups where friendships could flourish outside of organised activities.

Eight teenage ‘buddies’ who don’t have SEND themselves were recruited to support the young people and grow their circles of support. Click here to hear one buddy’s account of this experience.

Photos from Teenvine at Grapevine in 2020 and 2021
April’s scavenger hunt organised by Teenvine project workers at Coventry’s War Memorial Park

And as restrictions lifted, Teenviners were invited to a scavenger hunt around a local park to help ease them into a return to personal contact. A trip to the fair soon followed, with more (Covid-safe) socials in the pipeline.

For our project workers, one of the most exciting things has been seeing the friendships formed online during the pandemic blossom in person as the rules are relaxed, but only at a speed determined by the young people themselves.

“Teenvine is the only contact S had with anyone during lockdown.” (Parent of 16-year-old S, July 2020)

Look out for more on our work with young people in Coventry soon!

Teenvine Plus and Teenvine Covid Next Steps are funded by BBC Children in Need and are part of our work with young people across the city, this time in our Strengthening People action strand.