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Outreach programme to be trialled in primary schools

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A CHARITY that encourages young people to make positive choices about their lives and relationships is to pilot a programme for primary schools.

Les Quennevais School. YouMatter team L>R Paul Milbank, Sessional Educator, Zoe Hewlett, Educator, Sarah Gray, Executive Director and Emily Martin, Education Manager

YouMatter, which currently runs sessions in secondary schools, youth clubs and on a one-to-one basis, also hopes to offer workshops for parents and carers.

And, thanks to sponsorship from a local company, it recently employed a new member of staff – Paul Milbank – who will work with young men on issues specifically affecting them, such as exploring themes of masculinity and what kind of people they want to become.

Sarah Gray, the charity’s executive director, said all three areas had been identified for expansion by the organisation, which is run by a small group of Christians, is entirely funded by donations and provides its services to young people for free.

Last year YouMatter, which was renamed two years ago after being called Love Matters, delivered 403 workshops to 3,674 young people in schools, youth clubs and community settings. It worked in every secondary school in Jersey and provided more than 85 hours of one-to-one support to young people.

The charity, which is currently receiving funding from the One Foundation and the Association of Jersey Charities, has a team of four educators and one sessional worker and is overseen by a board of four trustees.

Its work is informed by national guidance, local trends and feedback from young people and currently focuses, in an age appropriate way, on nine key areas: self-esteem and confidence, positive relationships, decision-making around sex, sexually transmitted infections, child sexual exploitation prevention, sexting and staying safe online, the impact and effects of pornography, alcohol, drugs misuse and staying safe and supporting positive parenting.

The group now plans to consult primary schools to find out what they would like the charity to offer in its sessions for younger children.

Ms Gray said they then planned to pilot workshops at four primary schools in the first year, expanding it further in the future.

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‘It will all be really age appropriate,’ she said. ‘It is about laying the foundations.’

Workshops for parents would focus on everything from building confidence to talk to their children about relationships and sex, and determining what topics are age appropriate and when, to addressing parents’ own worries about communicating with their children.

‘A key part of what we do is that workshops are all tailored to the needs of that group,’ said Ms Gray, who set up the charity in 2011.

‘We care about young people. We want them to feel confident and know in themselves they have choices and that they are worth making good choices for.’

For more information about the charity visit youmatter.je.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
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