Inspiring Oxford’s young people to find their fire

thumbnailTeenagers in east Oxford are being empowered to support their peers through an exciting new programme co-ordinated by Viva’s Doorsteps network, in partnership with the City Council, churches and local community groups.

Youth unemployment, teenage pregnancy, child sexual exploitation and trafficking regularly hit the headlines but each are rooted in chronic issues that often exist below the surface.

Local young people who participated in 2014’s Doorsteps research also said that bullying, self-esteem and safety issues were very important to them.

Find your Fire seeks to break these cycles by addressing root issues, preventing young people from continuing this pattern, and leading to transformative change.

It is working with some of the city’s hardest-to-reach young people to increase their confidence and boost their skills so that they can get involved in mainstream education and training provision or employment.

Four ladsKaty Thompson, Viva’s Doorsteps Network Consultant, says, “As more young people in east Oxford are able to recognise their value and to access appropriate training and mentoring opportunities, they will be empowered to make informed life choices.

“We hope this will contribute to reduced numbers of young people engaging in risky behaviours, and more young men and women finishing school with qualifications that enable them to continue in education and find employment.”

One of Find your Fire’s current projects is a peer mentoring app and chat room created by James, a 15-year-old student at St Gregory the Great Catholic School in Cowley, Oxford.

In March, James ran the pilot in his school, offering live advice around GCSE option choices to year 9 students and training peers to be live advisers alongside a number of youthworkers.

James says, “It has developed my skills in web design that I couldn’t do before and helped me gain confidence in talking to others and advising them. I’d recommend it to anybody considering joining the project next year.”

Lowe it thumbnailOther young people in the project wrote and recorded an original soundtrack all about making good choices. The goal of the song is to encourage other young people to think positively about their lives. Click here to listen to the song entitled ‘Lowe it’.

As well as peer education projects, the programme is also providing 15 young people with one-to-one coaching, Outward Bound style activities and a level 1 or 2 accredited training in peer leadership and mentoring.

Katy says, “Our hope is that through taking part in this tailored leadership and training programme, these young people will be able to become more resilient and able to address the issues affecting them. We want them to be able to support other young people around them and to communicate positive messages.”

Launch Bishop Katy

The Bishop of Dorchester Rt Rev Colin Fletcher and Viva’s Katy Thompson at the Doorsteps launch, May 2015. Photo: John Cairns

Find Your Fire is a partnership between Donnington Doorstep, St Luke’s Church, Oxford Youth Works, Viva and Oxford City Council.

Since the public launch of the research report in May 2015, and the enthusiasm of many groups for collaborative work, the Doorsteps network has been gathering members and momentum.

Find Your Fire is one of three pilot projects for Doorsteps. The other two are:
•    supporting Home for Good in encouraging church leaders to support families within local churches to become foster carers
•    developing a response to the proposed closures to children’s centres which will see a huge reduction in services to vulnerable parents and their families.

The Doorsteps network is hosting an autumn conference in Oxford, which aims to inspire, equip and connect churches to effectively reach out to children and vulnerable families in their community – and make real change possible.

There will be inspiring speakers, workshops, a marketplace and an opportunity for networking.

Please save the date now! It’s taking place on Saturday 5th November from 10am-4pm at CMS in Oxford. Click here to show your interest and request a reminder nearer the time.