Girton Town Charity

Case Study: Youth Project brings wider benefits to the Village

From painting to ping pong and drama to dodge ball, Girton’s young people have access to a wide range of activities run by the Youth Project which is led by Rachel Rason and funded by Girton Town Charity (GTC) through the YMCA. 

As Girton Youth Project Manager, Rachel makes interesting and engaging activities available to the young people in the Village, bringing together groups and promoting a sense of community to encourage pride in the neighbourhood.

Community connections

Rachel says: “Girton Youth Project has provided community-based youth work for the young people of Girton since 2006 when Tim Shuker Yates was Youth Leader. In addition to delivering leisure and learning opportunities, we keep in touch with schools and other services to offer support. Children currently attend our activities from Gretton School and our links with Girton Glebe include working with groups of primary children to create playground murals, make bird boxes and animation. We have also run a Graffiti Project at Impington Village College.

“Our team of full-time staff, sessional workers and volunteers are trained in youth participation. Some of our ex-Youth Project attendees have now become volunteers and volunteers regularly move on to paid posts.

“The Youth Group is held on Mondays and Thursdays at Cotton Hall where sessions are divided into age bands with around 20 people on average attending each group.

Seasonal activities

“During the Winter months, we focus on indoor games and activities such as Xbox, pool, ping pong, dodge ball, henna painting, nail painting, jewellery-making and cooking, whereas in the Summer we head outdoors using the recreation ground and woods for ball games and adventure games. We also organise workshops and outings too with recent trips to the London Dungeons, Go Karting, Climbing Wall and Adventure Parks.”

Artistic talent

Tim encouraged and mentored young people who may not have continued with further education in Bronze and Gold Art Awards, including projects on film-making, photography and graffiti. By championing artistic talent and discouraging inappropriate graffiti and tagging, this has resulted in murals in Girton Glebe School playground, in the refurbished YMCA lounge, Eden Health Centre and on hoardings in Bateman Street, Cambridge.

The Youth Group also took part in the 2015 Village Art Project where a temporary graffiti wall of palette wrap was made in Girton Wood, a mural produced and a film made of the event which was very well received at the pop-up exhibition for Passing Through and Settling.

Inspirational ideas

The main challenge for all young people today is that of empowerment. They have massive expectations put upon them: they must behave at school, do well in their exams, they must look perfect as the media portrays them and and they must also have money to achieve their dreams.

When Tim was Youth Leader he commented on the challenges he faced. "So many young people at the Youth Project who have made my job amazing. They have come to me with inspired ideas to improve facilities for young people in Girton – a home-made shelter to hang out in, their own space in the roof space of the pavilion, a skate park or a graffiti wall. These are all really fantastic ideas, but unfortunately I’ve struggled to find ways of making them happen and the kids who inspired these ideas have seen that their voice isn’t really heard. And that is hard.”

Positive impact

However despite the lack of resources for some projects, participants and parents are very positive about the impact of the Youth Project and this feedback is echoed by GTC Trustee Jenny Knights. She says: “The Youth Project has made a huge difference to the quality of leisure time for young people in Girton. Our Youth Leaders work tirelessly to create an environment where young people meet friends, share experiences and feel safe. It is a credit that they can engage with young people of all ages and that some choose to stay on, volunteer and even become paid workers. GTC is delighted to support this project and is proud of its success.”

For more information on the Girton Youth Project: