Sunderland youth group wins award for teamwork

Julie Bell from Caught in the Act was nominated for the Volunteer of the Year award at the North East Youth Work awards 2014.
Julie Bell from Caught in the Act was nominated for the Volunteer of the Year award at the North East Youth Work awards 2014.
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A Wearside youth group’s teamwork has landed it a top award.

Sunderland’s Box Youth Project scooped the title after working alongside Farringdon Community Academy, where its students were challenged to take part in a host of enterprising tasks.

The project won the Innovation Practice Award at the Youth Focus: North East awards ceremony at the Stadium of Light.

The group’s Change Your Mind About Young People programme – which gave pupils the chance to have their say and make a difference to the health services they use – was also a factor in landing the award.

The two organisations have a long-standing partnership, which has seen the project head up workshops on drug and alcohol awareness, sexual health advice sessions and run knife crime awareness.

Denise Barna, from the group, also collected an Outstanding Contribution Award for her efforts to co-ordinate Project Gambia.

It sees a shipping container filled with supplies and sent to the African country once a year, with a group of youngsters from the project also travelling over to work on community improvements and lead workshops.

Denise was nominated by the Washington branch of the Rotary Club.

Lisa Wilson Riddell, who manages the Hall Farm Road-based Box Youth Project, said: “We were delighted to receive the award on behalf of the project, but it’s all through the school and the young people.

“I’ve worked with a lot of schools over the years, but it’s been outstanding and they let us run with our ideas.

“It’s also about being nominated by somebody else and we’re really proud of our volunteers, because we only have a very small staff.

“A lot of them come back to us after working on things like Project Gambia to continue the work.”

Denise said: “My motivation comes from the young people who want to do something and driven by what they get out of it.

“Seeing them develop their skills and the feedback from them is enough for me.

“When they read out my name, I couldn’t believe it.

“It’s nice to be nominated and it does make me feel really valued and it also gives us the opportunity to tell people about what we do.”

Also nominated from Sunderland was Julie Bell in the Volunteer of the Year category for her work with the Caught In The Act drama group.

Thirteen awards were handed out to individuals, projects and youth services who work with those aged between 11 to 25.

Leon Mexter, chief executive of Youth Focus: North East, said: “Occasions like our North East Youth Work Awards helps to highlight the outstanding and unique contribution that youth workers and youth organisations make to the community fabric of the region.”

More than 170 guests attended the ceremony, with entertainment provided by 15-year-old musician Keiran Scaplehorn, from Washington, Irish folk group The Geordie Shamrocks and songs sung by Ingenius Theatre.