Spotlight On: Berkshire Youth

Berkshire Youth

We love having the brilliant Berkshire Youth as part of our Connect Reading family. Julie MacLean, Marketing Manager at Berkshire Youth, took some time to tell us a bit more about the charity and the work they do.

Berkshire Youth is a local charity which has been supporting the county’s young people for the past 80 years – helping them as they transition from childhood from young adulthood. We champion young people, furthering their development and education through fun and engaging leisure time activities.

Why did you join Connect Reading?

Our office is in Reading (Watlington Street, near the RBH) and we are keen to play our role in the local community. We hope to get to know local organisations and individuals better in order to work together to improve and strengthen the local area. We are grateful for the opportunity to raise our profile and awareness of the work we do with local young people.

What was your biggest challenge last year?
Definitely Covid-19! Our usual methods of supporting young people through youth clubs, in-school etc were often suspended. We had to find new and innovative ways to best support local young people who really needed us. From meeting them virtually, chatting to them on their doorstep or on the phone or going for a socially distanced walks, we tried anything and everything to ensure that the young people relying on us still had access to our youth workers. We did whatever worked for the young person. Another huge challenge for our charity has been the curtailment of our fundraising activities, whilst experiencing a spike in demand for our help. We are funded solely by donations and support from individuals and companies.
What have you learned?
We are proud of the way our small team adapted quickly and effectively. Everyone pulled together to make the most of the situation in which we found ourselves and remained positive and tenacious. We concentrated on what we could make happen rather than dwelling on what we could not. We also learnt that young people needed us more than they ever had throughout our charity’s history. Young people are now widely recognised as one of the groups in society who have suffered most during the pandemic.

We have also learnt how much more difficult life has become for hundreds of families in Reading with being laid off from work or having to educate and entertain children for months on end without the monetary and technical resources and equipment to do so that are enjoyed by most of the population.

What has been your biggest creative triumph as an organisation?
We like to think outside the box and we responded to the pandemic by launching the Berkshire Youth Hubs (wbyh.co.uk). This award-winning virtual youth hub is virtual, phone and text based support platform which signposts young people, families and youth workers to all of the activities still taking place, along with volunteering opportunities, careers information, counselling support and more across the county; as well as providing the opportunity to connect with one of our fabulous, professional youth workers.
What are you most looking forward to?

We are all very excited about the year ahead! We have a new Charity Ambassador, Reading FC player Tom Holmes, who is very keen to support us in our work with local young people, and he can’t wait to get stuck into his new role! Additionally we’re about to open the Waterside Centre – our newly-renovated youth and community centre in Newbury which will offer young people a safe place to go to make friends and take part in a range of inspiring activities. We’re also really looking forward to offering more face-to-face opportunities to local young people, with more opportunities to get out and about in the community to tell more and more people about our work, plus fundraising to enable us to help more local young people.

How can people connect with you and support what you’re doing?

We would love to hear from local organisations and individuals who would like to support us – we have a whole range of options available. Whether you would like to support us financially, through CSR projects, by volunteering or donating money or items, there is something for everyone! Please visit our website to learn more about our work and how you can support us – berkshireyouth.co.uk, or get in touch with me: julie.maclean@berkshireyouth.co.uk / 0118 909 0927. Thank you!

Spotlight On: Berkshire Youth
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