30 years ago in 1980 Children North East started a 'Family Link' service in Newcastle which recruited parents as volunteers to befriend and help other parents who were going through difficult times. The idea worked and in the following 25 years we set up 'Family Link' projects in many parts of the north east.
Two years ago we reasoned if the model worked for adults, why not for young people too and so 'Youth Link' was born in Sedgefield. Youth Link recruits and trains young people to befriend and mentor other young people; it matches them with young people who are are in difficulty of one kind or another and supports them to help where they can. The volunteers complete a training course which is approved by an external body and can lead to an accreditation. And the service model has the National Youth Volunteer Network REACH award and is accredited by the National Mentoring and Befriending Foundation.
The model worked so well that last year we successfully applied to the Big Lottery for grants to set up two more Youth Link projects in Tynedale and Blyth Valley. The volunteers really enjoy the training which includes a team building weekend building rafts, bridges and the like. Most volunteer because the experience is likely to help them in their careers but get a lot out of getting to know and assist young people they would otherwise never met. The young people who benefit from the support relate more quickly and easily to contemporaries rather than adults and have been helped through difficulties like getting into trouble with the police, falling out with parents, suffering ME and been supported to make new friends, find new worthwhile activities and get on better terms with parents and teachers.
This evening we are hosting a celebration for all our Youth Link volunteers to award them their accreditation certificates and to thank them on behalf of the young people they have supported and Children North East for the contribution that they make.