Bewl Water, Kent, 1st – 5th August 2016
Siblings United's summer activities kicked off on the 1st August with our 5 day camp to Bewl Water activity centre in Kent. We took 19 young people for a week of fun and adventure that would give them experiences and memories to share. Bewl Water has the largest stretch of open water in the South East. The 800 acre site is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, in the heart of the High Weald. This is a water based activity camp including sailing, wind surfing, canoeing and mountain biking.
We were happy to welcome 4 new sets of siblings, which accounted for 10 of the 19 young people who attended camp. The new siblings were wide eyed and not sure what to expect, but with the help of the 9 young people who had been to siblings camp before, some returning for the second time and some returning for the eighth year in a row. The brand new campers were told what a good time they were instore for and the seasoned campers shared their own experiences at siblings camp which made the new groups feel excited about the week they were about to experience.
As well as the day time activities the camp introduced new evening activities of circuit training and street dance lessons for siblings that wanted to participate, they proved to be very popular and uncovered dancing skills and moves that some young people and staff never knew they had.
All in all the camp went very well and many siblings learnt new skills in sailing and wind surfing and as well as spending a great time with their siblings also made new friends and a new dance move or two.
Go Ape @ Battersea Park 11th August 2016
Situated on the south bank of the River Thames opposite Chelsea, Go Ape Battersea takes a new twist on the classic Tree Top Adventure. Incorporating some of the park’s taller trees, the city experience includes knee-knocking crossings that are double the height of most Go Ape adventures, and many are twice as long, making them extra wobbly and challenging.
We took 10 Siblings on our first day camp of the year. Some were gung -ho in their approach and some had to overcome their fear of heights with the help of the other sibling groups and staff from the safety of the ground. The tree top adventure lasted over 3 hours with siblings taking to the skies with only a safety harness and their determination to help them traverse the urban jungle located in the heart of London. After many screams and sharp intakes of breath on this beautiful summer day in London and after completing the tree top course many times every one had worked up a ravenous appetite which called for only one thing, a slap up meal at Nando’s, where much chicken and drinks were consumed while everyone told stories of how brave they had been and what a great day they had had.
Stubbers Adventure Centre, Essex, 15th – 19th August 2016
Siblings United have been going to Stubbers Adventure Centre for 6 summers in a row, the reason why is because of the wide variety of activities they do there, ranging from all the usual things like climbing, raft building and canoeing, but also activities like 4 x 4 driving, jet skiing banana boating and laser tag. With up to 4 activities a day and plenty to do in the evenings, Stubbers keeps the Siblings campers busy from morning to night. This summer we had 15 young people who attended camp.
With all that non stop activity the Siblings Campers need constant fueling, so a big shout goes out to the master cook Angela who works so hard from morning to night providing cooked breakfast, cooked lunch, wholesome balanced dinner and all the snacks in-between for the eating machines that are Siblings United campers.
One evening everyone was in the dinning room waiting for dinner after a day of full on activity and at that point the hungry campers were becoming impatient, a member of staff came in to say that dinner was delayed because a young person with learning difficulties from another group who were also staying on site, was missing or hiding and that Siblings United staff had been asked to help with the search. Without a word or a request every single Sibling united young camper from the oldest to the youngest got up out of their seats and said that they would help with the search, hunger was immediately forgotten and concern for a fellow young person became the only thought. It was a happy ending as the missing young person was found hiding very soon afterwards and dinner was eaten with even more relish that evening.
The weather was really good all week and the most popular activities were jet skiing and laser tag, two of the reasons why the Stubbers camp is so popular and always well attended.
Linda and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the hard working staff and KPMG volunteers who worked with us over the summer to make the camps fun, safe and a great environment for all of the siblings to have such a good time.
Ready Steady Cook Camp 22nd – 23rd August 2016
Ready Steady Cook is a new addition to the Siblings united programme and was well attended by both Siblings who have been coming to camp for years and siblings who have joined us for the first year this summer. The Ready Steady Cook Camp was hosted at Shaftesbury Young People AVC centre situated in the picturesque historic village of Upnor on the banks of the River Medway
Before any cooking was done the campers were given a class in kitchen rules and hygiene, ending with a multi choice quiz with all campers passing with flying colours.
The siblings were divided into two teams and given a demonstration by our Ready Steady Cook chef Henry on how to make each recipe and then sent to their side of the kitchen to reproduce chef Henry’s culinary delights. Staffwere on hand to give assistance if needed and together over the two days produced a range of savoury and sweet dishes. Pizza, Apple crumble, Pasta tuna bake, bread and butter pudding, strawberry cheese cake, Bakewell tart and Banoffee pie.
I was selected to be the judge and apart from the pizza that was covered in brown sauce instead of tomato sauce I enjoyed all the dishes and delights produced over the two days of cooking, baking and eating, with plenty to take home for carers, neighbours and pets alike.
Snow Camp 25th – 26th August 2016
For the second year running Siblings United partnered up with Snow camp to give our Siblings United young people a new experience. The programme provides young people with their first experience of snow sports, using Hemel Snow Centre as a base. The huge indoor snow slope is a fantastic place to get a feel of what skiing and snowboarding is all about. Snow camp also includes informal life-skills sessions that look at the challenges faced by young people and how skills being developed on the slope are useful in their everyday lives.
All of our siblings opted for snow boarding rather than skiing even though they were told that you’re more likely to fall over snow boarding, I think they all thought snow boarding was the cooler option.
Day one and fully qualified instructors begin by introducing the young people to the snowboard equipment before heading straight to the slope for the first lesson. Whether skiing or snowboarding, the focus for the young people over the first day was balance, controlling speed and understanding the basics of their new sport. Day two gave the siblings the chance to further develop their new snow boarding skills, which began with a review of the skills learnt on Day 1. The siblings progressed with their turning, stopping, and balance and speed control and by the end of the slope session on Day 2 the siblings had made significant progress and experienced for the first time the feeling of gliding down a ski slope looking as cool as possible.
An awards ceremony closed the course, with the siblings receiving their accredited Snowlife award for snowboarding as well as certificates and medals. This ceremony provided a positive end to the course, with siblings being commended on their efforts and achievements over the 2 days.
So all in all we have had a really busy summer working with over 60 young people, many new sibling groups participating in all kinds of fun and exciting things all over the country working with inspiring, good humoured, professional workers and volunteers, making sure that although we
worked really hard, everyone including us all had a good time.
Special thanks goes to KPMG for all the support and help they give us all year round.
We now are looking forward to the last camp of the year which is going to be at PGL Shropshire this October and our end of year Christmas party, which is being hosted at KPMG head office in Canary Wharf.
Charities like ours don’t have a monopoly on solutions for issues facing disadvantaged vulnerable and excluded children and young people that are holding them back. Please don’t think that this website or this charity is only interested in hearing from you if you have been disadvantaged in some way. We welcome the input from any young person who has something to say, something to get off their chest, or someone who has an idea on what needs to change to make a difference. Please make use of our Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or email to get in touch. If you wish to make a more active contribution, by volunteering, sponsoring, or providing support in some other way, once again, we would be very pleased to hear from you. Actually, you may be a Commissioning Agency who wants to know more about the work that we do and our service provision to children and young people. My colleagues will be more than happy to help and provide information.
I will not be the only contributor to this blog, my colleagues here at SYP, our trustees, our partners and hopefully some of the young people that we assist, will make contributions over time. This will not be a blog to push any kind of ‘party line’; if you have an opinion do please share it, if you have an idea, however outlandish it may appear to be, please do share with us. The issues facing young people need more vigorous and high profile discussion.
So what are the issues? Well its not rocket science to say that the vast majority of young people want to be in a position quite early in their lives where they can get a job that interests them and that pays enough for them to get somewhere independent to live and to have a ‘life’ that doesn’t just consist of worrying about the future and about where the next pound is coming from. Despite the fact that this doesn’t always happen, and for some young people will never happen, it is a basic human right for everyone.
I am not so far from the age of 16 not to remember the family debates, discussions, thoughts and fears around what I was going to do with my life when I left school. I saw those same thoughts going through the heads of my children when the time came for them to leave school. I was lucky in knowing what I wanted to do in terms of a career at an early age, but my three children had no real idea of where their future as adults lay, and that was fine by me. Few know their own minds at 16 or 18, or into their early twenties. This should be a time of trying things out, exploring options, of considering different ways of moving forward and of an exciting anticipation of what may come. The challenge is to be in a position, financially and socially, where you have time to think these things over and decide on the future.
So how can Shaftesbury Young People assist in this process, for the young people that we interact with, guide, advise and help to educate? Going through the process of thinking out the future and considering the options is rarely effective if done alone and without guidance and advice. This is where we believe we can help. In addition, this is where any contributions from you to our discussions will greatly assist us in our thinking as we move forward. We think that providing more paths into vocational training, providing vocational training ourselves and intervening in various ways to assist young people with social mobility to access training, is where we should put our greatest focus and efforts.
The acquisition by young people of skills and qualifications by way of formalised training is the key to employment and longer term security. Again, this is not original thinking, just common sense. Gateways to such training are often through qualifications, gained at school, such as GCSEs, A Levels and BTECH. For a variety of reasons, many of the young people that we assist are not in a position to access these ‘normal’ entry routes into further training. If this is the area of greatest need among disadvantaged, vulnerable and excluded young people, then this is the area that Shaftesbury Young People need to intervene and actively help. Our trustee board and senior management team are working on how this can be delivered in the most practical and sustainable way. I would expect to see us offering far more pathways into FE and HE, skills training for young people, providing our own, limited initially, but expanding, range of vocational skills training and qualifications, more than likely via a remodelled Arethusa Venture Centre, developed as not only a centre for watersports and outdoor activities, but also a centre of excellence for marine operations and engineering training.
We know from our research that not all young people have a clear idea of how many careers are out there and available to them that do not require a University degree or even a College certificate of any kind as an entry level qualification. Career advice in the school system is often inadequate and for the more disadvantaged and excluded young people, often none existent. This gap in a young person’s knowledge, guidance and advice can and does have a profound impact on their lives. We at SYP intend to help to address this issue.
I would like to end by setting a small challenge to any young person reading this blog. Do a little research on the internet and find out how many separate careers are available in two Worldwide industries:
Don’t worry about the qualification level to enter any particular career path, just count the number of separate careers in each industry that you can find. Report how many you can identify, with their title, via our Facebook, or by e mailing: email@example.com
Do that before 1st November 2016 and there will be a prize for the young person who finds the most and we will publish the result in one of our upcoming blogs. You will be very surprised at how long the two lists are.
Dr Bob Goldfield
Shaftesbury Young People