NCS is an absolutely amazing learning opportunity for young people aged 15-17; run by different companies in different areas… By chance I applied for The Challenge, which was the Manchester area, at the time I didn’t know it ran in most areas. It was without doubt, a massive highlight of my working life. What an experience, working with so many wonderful teenagers, from very different backgrounds. So many stories I could share, from seeing amazing speeches from inspirational young people; sharing challenges they have faced in their life with their peers; totally overwhelming! Keeping seventeen year olds distracted from their moans and groans while climbing Snowdon; sitting in the coridoor waiting to pounce, when they attempted to sneak out of their rooms; amazing work with charity partners; seeing a group of six teenagers, get a whole room of mentally disabled young adults engaged in their activities, was heartwarming, and then being told later that night, by one of the young men, over dinner- it was the best thing he had ever done. What a difference this program makes. It gives them a goal, something to work towards, experiences they might never have had!
The first week is ‘Personal Challenge’- an outward bound adventure- rock climbing, abseiling, sailing, work in their teams, following a timetable, eating as a group, sleeping as a group, night under canvas…. I was sent to Snowdonia and the accomodation, views and whole experience was amazing. The weather, on the other hand, was diabolic- cold and very wet!
The second week is ‘Team Challenge’- this is spent working and living as a team (ideally). Our halls of residence only slept people in flats of 3 or 4, with a very small cooking space, which meant eating as a team was pretty impossible. It was a fabulous experience nontheless, and for the staff it involved floating down the corridoors trying to keep tabs on 70 teenagers cooking tea, and joining them in their culinary delights. Some of them, were actually amazing cooks, and a couple surprised themselves. They spend their days learning a new skill; and then take that skill into a community partner. I got to visit Inscape House in Stockport with a group of six, what an amazing experience that was and I know how proud I was of the team. A true credit to themselves. The final showcase was a pleasure to be a part of and I was so impressed with their confidence and self-belief. Many off them overcoming barriers and difficulties, to get to the point of presenting in the showcase. Evenings were spent having fun all together-games, learning and craziness….
The third and fourth week are all about Community Action- the first half is spent visiting a different partner, for whom they would be raising money, preparing a pitch, a business visit, a pitch to the dragons, preparing a campaign to raise money; the second half- delivering their campaign in their local area, a days volunteering for their charity.
The skills and experiences these young people gained over the course of four weeks is amazing and each and every one of them should be so proud. I was proud to have worked with so many amazing staff and young people.
It was hard and tiring, but so immensly rewarding, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to young people as a participant, and anybody over 18 as a seasonal role. A wonderful experience wth memories made to last a lifetime.