NCS is a 4-week programme for teens aged 15-17, that runs over the summer holidays. It exists to engage, unite and empower young people; cultivating stronger, more integrated communities, building essential skills for work and life; and engaging young people in their communities, to create more understanding about their responsibilities as a citizen.
As the country’s fastest growing youth programme, NCS has made great strides in West Somerset in the last year; seeing a 75% growth in participation rates. In 2018, 82% of young people felt more positive about people from different backgrounds after NCS, and participants tell us NCS helps them feel more able to have a positive impact on the world around them.
During the programme, teens spend their time making new friends and taking part in all sorts of exciting activities: a week camping on Exmoor trying their hand at exhilarating outdoor challenges; a week living in university-style accommodation developing life skills like cooking, budgeting and public speaking; and then giving back to the local community through their own community project – this could be fundraising or campaigning for a local charity, improving a public space, or something creative of their own making.
Kaylyn, a former West Somerset College student, took part last year. Before NCS, she had never been away from home alone before. This is what she had to say about it:
“I was a bit worried about leaving my Mum, as it’s just the two of us at home, but you quickly forget about home as you’re so busy. I was also worried about having no phone signal, but we found no one was on their phones anyway, and no one complained.
In week 1 we did lots of activities, like paddle boarding. Some people weren’t very confident, so we had to help each other get along. There wasn’t the competition you get in school. It was great trying out new things and having to adapt.
In week 2, we had to do our own cooking. It was an eye-opener that some people couldn’t even cut a pepper, but we all came together to help each other out and no one was judged. The money management and CV-writing were really interesting, as we don’t do that sort of stuff in school.”
Kaylyn’s Mum, Emma, said “Kaylyn came back so much more communicative and social. It’s amazing what a difference 4 weeks can make; she was more self-reliant and confident in her own ability. The experience pushed her outside of her comfort zone and gave her a break from life after the pressure of GCSEs. It was a really productive way to spend part of the summer”.
Kaylyn added “On NCS I was in a group with others from my school; some of us had even been in the same tutor group for 3 years but had never spoken to each other before. I don’t know why. On NCS, we started speaking to each other straight away and no one was left out. It was also really nice being around people from other parts of the county. I loved it!”
All in all, it’s a great way to grow, learn and have a lot of fun over the holidays.
Emma also couldn’t believe the cost. The whole 4-week experience, including accommodation and food cost just £35. No one will ever pay more than £50 and bursaries are available, including support for those with additional needs.
On NCS, there is a big emphasis not only on having a great time and making new friends (although this is a big part too), but also on developing, self-reflecting and giving back to their local communities in some way. Working together on an issue they care deeply about is often the most popular and transformative part of the programme. In 2018, NCSers delivered over 1700 social action hours in West Somerset, supporting a range of voluntary and community sector organisations such as Minehead Eye, Cheeky Cherubs Preschool and Cuckoo Meadow Youth Project, as well as taking part in local environmental conservation work.
For their social action project, Kaylyn’s group decided to deliver an awareness and fundraising campaign for 2BU; a local youth support group supporting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender young people.
Kaylyn said “Our group decided quite early on the cause we wanted to support, as we felt more needed to be done to support LGBT awareness in our community. 2BU donated us some merchandise and we fundraised through a cake stand and face painting”.
By taking part in NCS, Kaylyn was given the opportunity to take part in African Adventures. This summer she will be carrying her social action skills to the next level, spending 8 days in Kenya supporting school lessons and physical sports activity.
“I’d like to join the army, so I’m hoping my experiences there will help me learn more about supporting communities and a better understanding of how other people live.”NCS will be running programmes this summer all over the country. To find out more, go to www.ncsyes.co.uk or call 0800 1978010