The Boys and Girls Clubs of Wales is one of the oldest youth organisations in Wales. It was formed in the early 1920s to bring together youth groups that had been supported through donations from miners. It is now an impressive collection of more than 170 youth clubs all around Wales who are part of its membership – with 30,000 young people and 3,500 volunteers.
Its overall aim is to support young people and meet their changing needs by providing them with a safe place to go, training, projects and activities that help them fulfil their potential. Projects have worked on themes including active inclusion, fundraising, internet safety, and engaging in community decision making. They also offer fun activities which breed confidence such as gorge walking and canoeing.
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Wales (BCG Wales) are participating in The National Lottery Community Fund’s Climate Action Boost programme, which Renew Wales is helping to deliver. They were eligible for this programme having already been in receipt of National Lottery funding – to help gear up for the re-opening the clubs after the Covid-19 pandemic, with safety and sanitizing equipment, and running sessions such as mindfulness for the young people.
The CAB funding enabled them to create an environmental action plan and, through consultation with members, staff, volunteers, and young people they identified two priorities: growing produce, and reducing consumption & recycling.
Their aim is to engage around 40 young people in this activity in those clubs which have the necessary land available and the staffing support in place to deliver it. These are Nantymoel, Bettws, Grangetown, Llwynypia and Caerau. The young people will benefit from informal and practical training sessions (in some cases from local Allotment Society members) so they can build the skills and knowledge needed to grow their own produce. It is hoped the produce will be sold in the clubs or maybe distributed locally to families in need.
Most of the clubs are yet to fully re-open with their activities and so progress has not been as swift as hoped. However, several clubs have bought the equipment and have made a start, especially in Noddfa, Caerau, near Maesteg and also Nantymoel, where the raised beds have been built and polytunnel frames put up. They will be ready for planting very soon! Links are being formed with ‘Edible Orchard’ too which will result in growing fruit, and who knows, maybe some jams and chutneys being produced in the future?
One of the young volunteers at the Noddfa project said,
“The garden project will be good for the kids as it is a healthy, fun, and educative way of seeing where and how their fruit and veg grow. As well as getting their hands dirty on the soil and some fresh air being outdoors. What child doesn’t like to get a little muddy now and then? I am most looking forward to seeing how much the kids enjoy being in that environment and trying all of the things we grow.”
Reducing consumption and recycling
The young people of Wyndham and KPC Youth will participate in this scheme and will be educated on how to design, implement, and manage an efficient and effective recycling programme within their clubs. They will be encouraged to promote the use of locally produced or environmentally friendly products and to raise a greater awareness of the threat posed to the environment of single use packaging. Plans are underway to get these schemes started over the next few weeks as the buildings re-open and the young people are welcomed back. Renew Wales mentor David Thorpe will engage the young people in discussion about the wider implications of climate change and the context in which their action here, in this project, plays its part.
Joff Carroll, BCG Wales National Director says,
“Creating an awareness of the dangers of climate change and how we at BGC Wales can help reverse the problem is important to us as an organisation. Encouraging young people to become involved in social action in their communities, especially during this challenging time, will aid and improve their wellbeing, mental health and self-esteem and create a more positive perception of young people in the community.”
In addition to giving the young people practical skills and knowledge of a subject, it is hoped that both these projects will foster greater engagement within their communities, with locals buying the fresh produce and using the recycling facilities. There is also an appetite and scope for inter-generational relationships to be built with knowledge and experiences being shared through activities and conversations. BCG Wales’ central management believe that many more clubs will see what has been achieved and will want to follow suit and embark on their own schemes- indeed, some have already showed a keen interest. There are several ideas for evaluating and celebrating the achievements as they progress, and we look forward to seeing these.