COVID: One Year On - The Young Women's Outreach Project

Through our conversations, we have seen the tremendous resilience of small and local charities throughout the pandemic. Here, Manager for North East and Cumbria, Neil Shashoua gives an account of local charity, The Young Women's Project, and their journey to adapting their services to continue to reach and support young women in the community.  

Since before lockdown, Joanne has kept a running journal of what they have done and learned; it's an incredible log of challenges, successes and a demonstration of staff and trustee resilience - Neil Shashoua, Manager, North East and Cumbria

The Young Women's Outreach Project, based in Gateshead, was set up 30 years ago to provide a specialist service to young women aged 11 to 19 years across the North East of England.

 

The project works with young women and young mothers supporting and guiding them through crises in their lives; such as unplanned pregnancy, problems or struggling in school, mental health issues, rape, self-harm, lack of confidence and self-belief, violence, and sexual exploitation.

 

A few weeks after I saw the project’s team present to an Inspiring Women event in Newcastle, in the run-up to International Women's Day 2020, the national lockdown as a result of COVID-19 resulted in the charity closing its doors, but not its heart.

 

Adapting services

Over the last year, the charity’s CEO Joanne Jopling, and her staff team and trustees have done amazing work to support young women throughout the pandemic; initially providing thousands of basic essentials, such as food, toiletries, and phone top ups, as well as keeping in touch with them to support them and identify concerns.

They have run open zoom sessions to provide humour, arts and crafts, quizzes and games to encourage positive mental health and have worked closely with social care services to address young women’s care and safeguarding.

 

After the first 2 weeks of lockdown they noticed a massive decline in the mental health of young women. They cleared a space at the back of the building and made it safe for physically distanced chats with the most vulnerable, counselled young women online, and paid for them take part in online courses.

 

The project has always had a close working staff team and they supported each other with one to one phone calls, a WhatsApp group, daily check-ins, rearranged working times and tried to manage workloads.

 

Continuing to support young women

I was really impressed with how the project has completely changed how it works with young women.

 

Before the pandemic young women would come to the project’s building to be supported; over the last year, staff have developed a way of working with young women on their doorsteps, working with the whole family by getting to know siblings and parents and other family members. They found the care packs were a way to engage with young women and their families and show families that they are not alone.

The Young Women's Project - Shopping bags filled with essentials to distribute

The Young Women's Project - Shopping bags filled with essentials to distribute

Learnings

Since before lockdown, Joanne has kept a running journal of what they have done and learned; it's an incredible log of challenges, successes and a demonstration of staff and trustee resilience.

 

Within its pages there are many stories of difficult situations; young women running away from home, siblings taking drugs, having money stolen from them, and not being able to return to school.

 

Amongst the sadness there are triumphs and staff have seen a real positive change - young fathers and mothers taking more responsibility for their children, young women going for walks in nature, and young women enrolling in college to continue their education.

One year on, the project is still there for young women.

Small charities responding to COVID

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