Bristol and Me: Lee Williams

young bristol

This week in Bristol and Me, we speak to Lee Williams, chief executive of Young Bristol

Young Bristol provides services for young people aged 8–24, via a network of community youth clubs. The charity celebrated its 90th anniversary last year, and played a massive part in my young adult life. At the time you don’t realise you’re learning, but I look back and see I gained confidence, resilience, all those buzzwords we have now. Youth clubs’ importance lies in providing safe social spaces and fun opportunities, underpinned by caring, qualified youth workers and volunteers. We’ve raised nearly £120,000 to buy and fund a bus to act as a mobile youth club, helping close the growing gap of youth provision in greater Bristol.

We aim to get young people active. Activities include kayaking, rock climbing, abseiling, creative arts, videoing and digital technology. We offer sports leader qualifications through our outdoor instructor training scheme. Alongside hard skills, we try to build the soft skills – independence, friendship-building, etc – employers tell us they’re looking for. Young people face different pressures nowadays, including school being increasingly academically driven. Everyone needs a life/work balance, and we endeavour to help young people enjoy childhood.

We run the National Citizens Service – a government-funded scheme to give life skills to 15–17-year-olds – including taking them to the Brecon Beacons. A lot won’t know each other and the coach journey up is relatively quiet. Throughout the week they do a whole range of things, and it’s beautiful watching friendships blossom; I can assure you, the journey back is bedlam! Back in Bristol they go to the halls of residence at University of Bristol – it’s about raising aspiration, showing university is potentially available for all – and fundraise for community groups.

We’ve been nominated for the Evidence and Impact Award at the Voscurs on January 31. We’ve put a lot of effort into evidencing our impact; in a very tough environment, the best chance of securing funding is to evidence the change in young people’s attitudes, skills, employability: “If you give us this money, this is the change we make.” Ultimately, that helps us as a city.

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