Zorb challenge from youth to high sheriff

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South Yorkshire High Sheriff Julie Kenny has faced her most unusual challenge to date – she tried the high-octane sport of zorbing when she visited Barnsley’s acclaimed children and youth project Exodus, which officially opened its new South Heindley centre and hosted its first youth weekend.

Julie, who grew up on a Sheffield council estate and left school at 16, had already visited the project, which targets Barnsley’s most disadvantaged communities, and was eager to go back.

The Exodus Project builds supportive and caring relationships with children, young people and their families to divert them from crime and anti-social activity.

The project runs mid-week activity clubs, home visits, activity weekends and community partnerships.

The High Sheriff said: “I am so impressed with what Jackie and Martin, the project’s founders, and their dedicated team of 50 volunteers are doing for the 200 kids who access their services each week, helping them make the right choices for their lives.

“Through the Exodus Project, building close and trusting relationships with young people and their families, those in the project are adopting lifestyles which will help them fulfil their potential, benefit their communities and promote greater social cohesion.”

Co-founder and development manager Martin Sawdon said: “As well as activity clubs and home visits we take the kids away on activity weekends.

“For 12 years these have been in hired premises in various locations while we searched for a suitable centre for our weekend retreats but for the last six years the South Heindley Methodist church congregation of eight lovely elderly people have invited us to use their premises.

“Over that time they became so committed to the work we do, when they left, they wanted us to make use of their building for our dance, drama, crafts, sport, music, games – and activities like the zorbing!”

He added: “We have called the centre Jenny’s Field after a well-loved donkey, Jenny, which lived in the grounds and had been fed by the kids on their way back from school for 20 years.

“Our neighbour even maintains our grounds and gives us his allotment produce to use with the children. We are so blessed by the community and volunteer support here.”

The team’s community partnership works with local residents’ associations, the police, housing authorities, schools and others.

They are now appealing to local businesses to partner with Exodus through the provision of volunteers, in-kind gifts or supplies, promotional support, placements or interview skills training and of course fundraising initiatives.

“We would love businesses to adopt us as their local charity”, said Martin.

“We always hoped local employers would help us to guide and train their next generation of employees to become the kind of positive work-ready young people we know they can be.”

For more information on the Exodus project, contact Martin on 01226 718899 or theexodusproject@msn.com

For details of how to nominate a charity or volunteer for a High Sheriff Award, go to www.southyorkshirehighsheriff.co.uk, email highsheriff@pyronix.com or write to Pyronix Ltd, Secure House Braithwell Way Hellaby Rotherham S66 8QY.