Recent tragic incidents of knife crime, cyber-bullying that can lead to suicide, the pressure to join gangs, drug and alcohol addiction, depression and loneliness. At the same time, our young people are coping with increased pressure to succeed at school, maintain the perfect body image, be popular and in touch with their peers on social media 24/7.
Suffolk’s local charities are in a unique position where they have established a position of trust and can work with teenagers, younger children and families, to solve challenges and create better futures.
“4YP was set up to help 12-25 year olds with social, emotional, mental health and wellbeing issues. Deeply rooted within the communities in which we work, we change lives at the sharp end by gaining the trust of young people,” explained Tibbs Pinter, the Chief Executive Officer of 4YP, who have a drop -in centre in Ipswich but also work in thirteen high schools in Suffolk. “It is this element that empowers individual counselling, mentoring and youth work support, to make a real difference.”
Home-Start Suffolk’s 200 volunteers donated 35,000 hours of support for 350 families last year, supported by a tiny staff team.
“Every family we support has at least one child under the age of twelve and feel they need support for whatever reason. It may be help to get out of the house, or to access groups and be part of the local community,” explained Tara Somers, the Executive Manager for Home-Start Suffolk. “Lots of our families may not see another adult face all week or have family living close.”
Melita was told about Home-Start by her health visitor and it was Jane, who started coming for a regular weekly two-hour visit. She became a volunteer because she remembered how she’d felt when she had severe post-natal depression after the birth of her third child.
“I had a three- year old and had just given birth to my little one,” remembered Melita. “Having Jane come to see me made a massive difference. I could talk about everything, things I wouldn’t dare say to my mother or even to my husband sometimes. I would let off steam with her. It was really good, and I am really grateful.”
Working with families and young people, charities offer early intervention and prevention, and can provide positive influences, education and life-skills. Sometimes their volunteers were themselves helped by the charity. Jake went along to 4YP when he was having problems,
“I was in a very dark place and my life was in meltdown, my relationship had broken down, I lost my job, my belief in myself had just gone, my head was in chaos. A conversation with one of the volunteers, Wayne, pointed me in the right direction. Its been a massive effort to get my life back on track, but now I’m strong enough to start giving back and volunteering myself. 4YP saved my life, they helped me find things to do, reasons to live and feel good about myself again.”
Money is a big issue for all Suffolk charities.
“We live hand-to-mouth most of the time,” explained Shayra Begum, joint centre manager at the Bangladeshi Support Centre, which provides education, training and support for 40 different nationalities, “We get a grant for a year and then, six months down the line, we have to start applying for more funding just so we can continue…..”
‘After twelve years of working hard with individual donors, businesses, public sector partners and other national funders, we are bringing money into the county and encouraging people to keep it here by giving locally. Last year we were able to award 641 grants, totalling over two million pounds, to grass roots work in Suffolk. We need to encourage many more people to give locally. All giving is good but less than 20% of what we all give in Suffolk, stays in Suffolk,” said Stephen Singleton from Suffolk Community Foundation.
In Suffolk we are still letting some of our most vulnerable children and teenagers slip through the net when it comes to getting the help they need. With the right support they are more likely to have higher aspirations, go on to successful, happy futures and contribute more to their own family, local community and society as a whole.