Sheffield youth charity running one of UK’s most successful National Citizenship Schemes this summer
Sheffield youth charity Element Society is celebrating eight years of running one of the most successful Citizenship schemes in the UK.
With the National Citizenship Scheme, Element’s young people have done more than 200,000 hours of voluntary work - worth over £1.25 million to Sheffield.
More than 600,000 young people in the UK have attended NCS, with over 2,800 having benefited through Element Society.
It has helped more than 4,750 young people to change their lives and their Sheffield and Rotherham communities since it launched in 2013.
The charity began as a youth project working with 12 young people. It grew swiftly and now works with at least 500 young people each year of all abilities, backgrounds and religions.
And the charity is reaching young people from some of the city’s most disadvantaged communities. Of the young people Element has worked with to date, two thirds identified as black and minority ethnic and 15% were living with special educational needs or disabilities – SEND.
More than 215 projects have tackled issues including knife crime and child sexual exploitation.
The charity’s founder Chris Hill paid tribute to Yorkshire Building Society for providing four floors of its former offices overlooking the Town Hall, in the city centre to become Element’s city youth hub at a peppercorn rent.
Baron Blunkett, former Brightside MP, said: “I commend the work that’s been done by Element Society, not least in disadvantaged and divided communities to bring young people together, to provide hope and optimism, and of course bring necessary support and guidance.
"The work I have seen was geared to and achieved a great deal in offering a way forward for young people across ethnic and national divides, ensuring that they felt they had prospects and hope for the future.”
NCS is a two to four-week experience, designed to give young people aged 16 and 17 a clearer idea of what they want from their future and help them develop their interpersonal skills ahead of their next steps in education.
In Sheffield and Rotherham, Element Society runs mainstream programmes every Summer and Autumn, including specially-designed programmes for SEND groups in order to make the experience accessible for all.
Will Earp is Element’s programmes manager and remembers one young person with special needs who was particularly inspired others on NCS in Summer 2015.
“Jack Marshall has moebius syndrome which means he had substantial extra needs to be catered for whilst on the programme.
"Another provider had explained to Jack that his needs could not be met, but we learned Jack has taken part in marathons and multiple fundraising events which resulted in him being awarded Radio One’s Teen of the Year.
"Our staff met with Jack and his parents to discuss the barriers that we needed to break down together, so Jack could benefit from NCS. Element called upon expertise from different members of staff and concluded that there were adaptations we could make to ensure Jack could fully take part. We employed extra members of staff to ensure Jack’s needs and health were fully looked after on NCS. And he was a star!”
NCS participant success stories include Tylae, who said: “I first got involved with Element in 2015, back when I was 16 as a participant on the NCS Programme. I had been struggling for years to understand my sexuality and felt like the world had let me down.
"The staff at Element made me feel like I was a part of something bigger and that my voice could be heard. I felt empowered, and that I was more than just my sexuality. Element gave me opportunities to volunteer with them and- once I turned 18- I became a part of their seasonal staff team.
My experience with Element has been life changing. As a young person, I felt as though my future was bleak and I’d be working 9 to 5 for a big corporation.
"I have just completed a Youth Work and Community Development degree at the University of Derby. I’m understanding how important organisations such as Element are within our society, and I’m growing the skills I was taught at Element further to develop my career. I honestly believe that none of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the incredible work that Element did with me and the opportunities they gave me.”
Tes Awoke is 21 and a project assistant at Element. He has been living in England for eight years, went to Newfield school and then Hillsborough college to study sports.
He said: “When I was 15, I remember volunteering at the English Institute of Sport on kids sports day. Since then, I have always wanted to work with young people and I started doing lots of volunteering.
"During my second year I was proud to receive an award from the principal of Sheffield College for doing over 200 hours of volunteering.
“When I was 17, me and my two best friends started a projected called Big Brother Burngreave. Every Saturday we aimed to help males aged 12 to 20 to come off the streets and to give them something better to do like sports. We were also trying to fight against knife crime because in that area me and my friends lived, it was very high. We wanted to change that, so that's why we started the project.
“We started off with 6 people and now in 2021 we have over 100 people registered and our Big Brother project has won several awards, including the Move More Power of Sports Award.”
Follow Element on Instagram to stay up to date with opportunities. NCS for Summer 2021 is happening right now. Call Element Society on 0114 2999 210, or email [email protected]