A homeless shelter and women’s refuge were the beneficiaries as community-spirited teenagers in Colchester took part in a youth programme this summer.
Two groups of young people, all from the Colchester area, planned, prepared and ran their own community action projects as part of the National Citizen Service (NCS).
The national scheme, run locally by Essex County Council’s Youth Service, gives young people the chance to learn important life skills and give something back to their communities.
The first group, who were visited by Colchester MP Will Quince on Friday (pictured), focussed their efforts on transforming a garden area at a homeless shelter in Creffield Road.
The 16 and 17-year-olds raised about £300 for tools, plants and picnic benches by bag packing and holding a bake sale at Colchester Baptist Church.
They also had plants donated by Poplar Nurseries and gravel and bark from Land Design Partnership to help them complete the garden makeover.
The other group decided their project would focus on supporting women and children who have been affected by domestic abuse.
The young people collected more than £300 worth of donated items from various shops to fill decorated shoe boxes and handed them over to the Colchester and Tendring Women’s Refuge.
They are also in the process of making a video raising awareness of domestic abuse and Clare’s Law – a piece of legislation that allows police forces to disclose to individuals details of their partners’ abusive pasts.
The NCS scheme also sees groups enjoy two weeks of residential visits, taking part in team building exercises and other activities such as rock climbing, abseiling and archery.
This is then followed by two weeks running their community action projects.
Cllr Ray Gooding, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “This is an excellent programme that encourages young people to make a positive contribution to their communities and teaches them crucial life skills.
“I am very pleased the profile of the NCS is set to grow following the Queen’s Speech in May and I look forward to more young people in Essex taking part in the future.
“The Colchester groups have shown tremendous initiative and come up with projects that will have a significant impact on the lives of the homeless and victims of domestic abuse.
“I would like to congratulate them on their hard work and hope they have enjoyed the opportunity to help their community and gain vital skills.”
Residents of the homeless shelter in Creffield Road also lent a helping hand with the garden makeover project.
One of them, Oliver Helliwell, said: “Everyone did an amazing job and seeing everyone get stuck in with the project really inspired me to get involved.
“I really enjoyed doing it and I have been donated garden equipment to keep up with the maintenance of the garden.”