Focus has been working with young people in Leicester for 30 years and we have created and delivered many different types of youth projects and we are very excited about the possibilities of the Breathing Space Project. We started to develop Breathing Space in 2018 and it centres around an allotment, where young people who are experiencing mental health and other emotional issues work together alongside our staff and volunteers to develop their confidence, resilience, self-esteem and coping strategies.
This is achieved through creating seasonal plans for the planting of fruit, vegetables and flowers; building fires, where we socialise and can cook the food we grow; taking part in art actvities and group discussion, based upon the needs of the young people. There is an opportunity to engage with the local community, who are integral to the allotment. The site provides that slower pace of life away from the pressures of school, social media and the city. This environment allows all participants to stop and reflect upon personal issues in a calm and supportive way, where trusting relationships develop and they can plan how issues can be overcome or managed in their own time.
The young people that have accessed the project to date have reported improved self-confidence as they work together and reap the fruits of their efforts. They have improved their coping strategies for managing their mental health. They feel less isolated and lonely as they develop their social networks with other young people our adult team and with the wider community. They report feeling more optimistic about their future prospects. We encourage them to visualise their aspirations having reflected on their achievements and relationships through their time on the project.
This project is still in its infancy and we have only just begun to realise and record the possibilities of Breathing Space. There are more young people and organisations in the city we can meet and work with. There is further work and effort needed to maintain and develop the site. There are more volunteers needed to be recruited and trained, so they can lead the change process that we want our participants to experience.
New funding will help us establish a bigger team to plan and carry out these new developments. The team can further the reach of Breathing Space and develop the resources needed to enhance the site and build upon the success to date. This project is needed in our city and for our most vulnerable young people. Poor mental health and its real impact upon young lives is something we deal with every day. Young people tell us that they want to end their lives and that they see no way out of the desperate situation they find themselves in. This creates anxiety and fear for the young person, their families, educational providers, and everyone around them. Increasingly we find that young people self-harm to cope with the stress caused by bullying on social media or in the classroom. Poor self-image leading to eating disorders are emerging presently in our work and conversations with young people. Low self-esteem and sense of worth, and a lack of belonging to their city or neighbourhood affect many young people who meet. These issues are compounded by the pressure young people are put under to achieve grades at school, where they should instead feel nurtured and supported. All of these can become significant obstacles to leading a healthy and fulfilling life.
The media portrays what a successful life is supposed to look like and for many young people, especially those who access projects like ours, it seems unobtainable, adding a further burden on their already challenging lives.
At Focus, we have the experience, skills and knowledge to help young people look beyond these factors, to believe in themselves and what they can achieve personally and for the communities..
Believing in yourself is based upon positive self-regard and Breathing Space has guided young people to have improved mental health and well being. Help us build this life changing resource.