500 young people learning about Sands!

East Kent Sands was delighted to play a part in the National Citizen Service 2019 Summer Programme when we engaged with over 500 young people.

The National Citizens Service (NCS) is a government financed initiative open to all 16 and 17-year-olds in England.  NCS helps build skills for work and life, while offering new challenges by bringing together young people from different backgrounds to help them develop greater confidence, self-awareness and responsibility.  It encourages personal and social development by working on skills like leadership, teamwork and communication.

Participants develop a social action project to deal with a local issue they’re passionate about, and spend 30 hours putting the project into action in their community.  Sometimes that Community Action is for a general cause (for example an environmental project), and sometimes it is aimed specifically at supporting a particular charity. 

We were one of a dozen charities invited to give presentations following a conversation at a networking event in 2018.   We had been invited to a one-off event last October but that had been cancelled.   We had the option to attend and give presentations on any or all of the weeks and committed to attending all six weeks, each time running three separate sessions, the only charity to do so.  Each week there were between 4 and 8 other charities presenting.

Over six weeks we gave 18 separate 30-minute presentations to groups of averaging 30 young people – 540 in total. We gave out our leaflets, Safer Pregnancy cards and wristbands to each young person and challenged them to wear the wristband for a day and to tell one other person about baby loss.  A few young people also told us about their own experiences.

Following the presentations, the groups got back into their area teams and discussed the charities from whom they had heard and decided on their community action project.  In the event, over the six weeks eight separate groups from four areas decided to support East Kent Sands.  Some told us later we were chosen because of members’ own experiences, some because it was such an important cause and some because it was small and local, and their activities really could make a difference.

Having decided on their cause, the groups decided individually what to do and how to do it and across the eight groups there were cake sales, quiz nights, information stands, sharing events, hair dyes, at least three radio interviews, a football skills event, a show, tombolas, mural painting, street collections, supermarket bag packing, a fun day and more besides.

Each event was organised by the young people themselves, usually with very little planning time and in quite a few instances, they found themselves up against bureaucracy which got in the way of their plans.  For most of the young people, this was a real challenge in organising events, being creative and team working.

In total, the young people raised over £3,000 for Sands, some of which we kep[t locally to fund our activities and some went to the national organisation to fund national initiatives. 

In each case, we provided a range of equipment to help the groups (marketing items such as collecting buckets, table cloths, pullups and posters, leaflets, wristbands, sashes) and so on and this was delivered to the groups and collected at the end of the week.  We also made sure we attended at least one event for each group and we visited on the last day to collect equipment and money, but also – and most importantly - to say thankyou to the young people and to explain how their money will be used.  We presented each person with a personalised thankyou certificate.

This has been a fantastic initiative which has resulted in over 500 young people hearing about Sands and subsequently discussing the charity within their local groups, over 120 of them going on to run events for us, and 30 or more initiatives arranged in five areas of East Kent, each raising awareness of baby loss and Sands charity. 

The commitment by our volunteers has been significant with six half days spent on the presentations themselves, and time committed virtually every single day during the six weeks, attending events, providing equipment and other resources, and encouraging and thanking the young people. The various trips totalled over 700 miles and there was some minor cost of the wristbands etc, but on a purely financial basis, the costs to us were more than outweighed by the money raised by the young people. 

This has been as busy but enjoyable few weeks during which hundreds of young people have had to think a little about baby loss and they in turn have talked to family and friends, and to members of the public, all helping to raise awareness.   There have been some hidden benefits, for example the couple who contacted us for support as an indirect result of one of the NCS group’s events.

Several young people and several of their parents have talked to us about their own experiences of baby loss and we have been able to talk to them about their babies.  And a few young people have said they would like to continue to support Sands, at some time in the future.

We are so grateful to the NCS service providers for allowing us to be part of this project in East Kent and we hope to be able to continue that involvement in the years to come.

Chris and Chris Twydell

August 2019

Publication Date: 
Sunday, September 8, 2019