I am Jack White; I am 19 years old and have lived in the North East coastal town of South Shields nearly all my life. I first became involved with the Foyer Federation over two years ago, through one of the exciting projects ran by what was then Changemakers. This project was called ‘Change Your Mind About Young People’ (CYMAYP) and aimed to change the way young people’s health was approached by health professionals. The findings from the CYMAYP project was then fed back to the Department of Health and also delivered to a NHS England conference.
Following the conclusion of the project in September 2014 I stayed in touch with the Foyer Federation through their social media channels. This was when I learned of the SITA Community Upgrade Challenge (CUC) – a unique opportunity to give young people the chance to apply and lead on the spending of up to £20,000 to make a real community impact by making improvements to existing community facilities.
Scouting has been a huge part of my life. I have been in the movement since I was 6 and since I have turned 18, I have started adult leader training. Now I am a Cub Scout Leader and have the challenge of delivering what we call “everyday adventure” to a group of over 25 young people aged 8-10 ½.
My Scout Group, the 7th South Shields, is lucky to have its own premises in the form of a Hut. The Hut, although much beloved by myself, other leaders and Scouts, and although it is structurally sound, did suffer on the cosmetic front. Therefore, when learning of the SITA CUC and knowing what a difference such a substantial cash injection could make to our building; I jumped at this opportunity.
The application was a hurdle in itself: coming up with ideas; liaising with other leaders; gathering quotes from builders; putting together the application and selling the plan to SITA themselves. Next came the task of project managing the build having chosen a contractor. The build, forecast to take three weeks was dragged out for three months. This added aggro and perhaps my leniency with the builder initially was probably my greatest learning curve from the whole experience.
However, fast forward to December 2015 and the transformation has been incredible. Fortunately, the problems with the building contractor were not the quality of the work, just the pace of it. The dated 1970s toilets have been ripped out; six new skylights flood the main hall with natural light; new cupboards mean we can host more community groups; the kitchen facilities are much improved and new IT equipment means we can now use the Hut for formal occasions and meetings also. What was once a Scout Hut is now a real community hub and asset. Although the Hut’s transformation has immediately benefited the Scout Group and also other local Scouts who make more use of our premises; we now have five community groups making regular use of the building and more on the way. What’s more, these community organisations also benefit from the comparatively low hire rate we charge and which is sometimes even free!
The initial next step will be the formal concluding of our CUC and we’ll be welcoming the Emma Lewell-Buck MP for South Shields, to join the entire Scout Group to “reopen” the Hut on Friday, March 18. My next plan will then be to attract another chunk of funding from another grant, to add that cherry on top of the cake and create an attic space.
However, in the meantime my plans on a personal note: I I’ll be taking another gap year next year and going to live in Peru next year to immerse and develop my proficiency of Spanish and I hope to pass my driving test in the coming months. From September 2016, I’ll then start university. With Scouts, I’ll be continuing the adventure and plan to travel to Peru, Bolivia and the US next year to complete my Queen’s Scouts Award. Beyond that, we’ll just wait and see, but I’ll forever have my next adventure or project up my sleeve.