Meet the Washington and Sunderland teens on a mission to tackle loneliness
A group of teenagers have spent the summer visiting care homes in a bid to tackle loneliness and raise awareness of mental health.
The youngsters, aged 16 and 17, decided to reach out to elderly people in Sunderland as part of their involvement in the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme.
NCS gives young people the chance to take on new challenges, meet new people and develop skills that will support them later in life.
The NCS group made up of 15 teenagers from Sunderland and Washington, decided to tackle the issue of loneliness, bridge generational gaps and raise awareness of mental health in an effort to give back to the community.
Their efforts saw them take part in a sponsored walk from South Shields to Sunderland where they placed key messages along the route, aimed at members of the public who may suffer from mental health issues.
They organised a fundraising night in aid of charity Sunderland Headlight, that provides support and information to those affected by mental health issues.
Youngsters also visited the residents of Maple Lodge Care Home in Witherwack, Sunderland.
Team member Nathan Johnson, 16, said: “Our overall project aims to raise awareness into mental health issues, but while we were researching we realised that loneliness is often a key driver in this.
“With that in mind we thought we’d reach out to care homes to see if we could visit and speak with residents, and show them that young people are caring and friendly.
“It was really interesting to hear their stories.
“We actually had a lot in common with the residents.”
Washington and Sunderland West MP Sharon Hodgson heard about the team’s efforts and visited them at Maple Lodge Care Home to find out more about their project.
She said: “Whether you’re 16 or 86, you have a lot to give to society, and I think that the teenagers gained as much from their visit as the appreciative residents did.
“I was impressed by their civil engagement and experiences of the programme.
“Over 170 of my young constituents, as well as hundreds more from across Sunderland, have spent their summer ‘giving back’ with NCS and I commend them.”