Charity takes delivery of youth bus

Staff from O2 in Leeds today (Friday, May 1st) handed over a specially equipped Youth Bus to the St Luke’s CARES charity to support its mobile work with children and young people in the community.

In the past 12 months, the 2,700 staff have raised over £32,000 for the charity through enthusiastic fund raising efforts, ranging from sky diving to enduring ducking stools.

Their original target was £15,000. But twelve months on, they have more than DOUBLED that amount which includes a bursary from Yorkshire Forward.

Once a week, the new O2 youth bus will pull up in a local urban or rural neighbourhood where young people will have been notified by text that it is coming. Around 25 to 30 of them will congregate, looking forward to activities like rugby, a chance to experiment with a DJ and his mixing deck or just have some hot soup and a chat with a friendly youth worker. Offering someone to talk to, even if it is once a week can really make a difference, says Louise Megson, group manager for St Luke’s CARES.

The fund raising was part of O2’s “Big Site” project. Staff were asked to put forward charities of their choice and colleagues voted for which one they wanted to help. St Luke’s CARES was nominated by staff who had worked with the charity in the past and been impressed by its youth work.

Said Project Chair, Mark Nichols: “The mobile youth bus provides a facility that reaches right into the communities that need it most. Having seen at first hand the faces of children when they see St Luke’s in their own back yard, demonstrates immediately how much they value this service. It is a real and practical way to encourage children to channel their energy into something very positive.”

He added: “St Luke’s has a shared vision with our O2’s It’s Your Community programme to contribute to society in a sustainable way – raising money to create a real and tangible change in the community and supporting and developing the next generation of society to make a positive difference.

“Our volunteers have been tireless in their efforts to raise as much money as possible. They have done everything from hand making cards to sell at Christmas to jumping out of aeroplanes. Their passion and energy over the last 12 months have been the catalyst for raising a fantastic amount of money.”

Thanking O2 staff on behalf of St Luke’s CARES and the children and young people of South Leeds, Louise Megson said: “The amount of effort and enthusiasm of the O2 crew was infectious. Their support, commitment and passion over the past year has been amazing. Many of the young people who use our service want to help and be involved. They can help out on the O2 Youth Bus weekly, earning a little bit of pocket money whilst gaining valuable skills for the future.”

O2’s support is part of the O2 It’s Your Community programme, which allows groups, organisations and charities to apply for awards ranging from £100 to £1000 to make a difference within communities. To date over £1 million has been donated to over 1,500 projects across the UK. To find out more and apply visit www.itsyourcommunity.co.uk

Case study – how charity helped teenager Ben.

When the St Luke’s CARES Youth Bus service turned up near Ben’s home, it was probably one of the luckiest days of his life. At the time, Ben was only nine and attending primary school. He enjoyed the after school activities, delivered by the charity’s youth workers, including football and rugby. But later, as a teenager, the service was to become a life-saver to him as his life spiralled out of control.

Right from the beginning, it became apparent to youth workers that Ben had some learning difficulties and mental health problems that his mother had not addressed. With the help of St Luke’s CARES, Ben was assessed and issued with a statement for special educational needs. He started receiving the necessary support from different agencies. Following on from his primary school, where he had felt safe and had built good relationships with staff, Ben’s behaviour and attendance at High School deteriorated to such a degree that he was excluded several times and categorised as emotionally disturbed. However, his youth workers remained positive and were the only agency not labelling him “a bad boy”. They praised him for his involvement in sporting activities and he also made friends with other young people through the Youth Bus. Because he felt safe and welcome, his anti-social behaviour was not such an issue at St Luke’s CARES.

But away from them, he was struggling with keeping out of trouble and his violent behaviour worsened with the result that he received a custodial sentence at a Youth Offending Institution and received an ASBO. He became a binge drinker and involved in crime. When he was 16, St Luke’s CARES lost touch with him but never gave up on him. After a gap, youth workers started supporting him again and he was given his own Connexions Personal Advisor and was welcome to use this service on a daily basis. This meant that he was off the streets and using his time productively. The most valuable services St Luke’s CARES offered Ben was someone to talk to about his experiences and emotions. This helped Ben realise that he did have a future.

Ben is still struggling with his emotions and his anger gets out of control but he admits this is an issue and has asked for help. With the help of St Luke’s CARES, he is living independently in his own flat and is being given the educational opportunity to develop skills which will enable him to find and stay in employment. . With support from St Luke’s CARES Ben has started looking forward to the future and understands what he needs to do to achieve his goals.