On 21st August, a group of young people on Exeter NCS (National Citizen Service) had their efforts recognised in an official opening ceremony for the play area they renovated at HMP Exeter. Exeter City FC Chairman, Julian Tagg, attended and praised the achievement of the young people, as well as thanking NCS staff for their efforts.
As part of the NCS programme, young people aged 15-17 develop skills and then give back to their communities through social action. All projects are entirely youth-led and this group identified children with incarcerated parents as a group they wanted to help. They spent two weeks totally transforming the play area in the Visitors' Centre, which is managed by Choices Consultancy Service.
Overgrown plants were removed and replaced with bright-coloured flowers; a plain white wall became an amazing mural featuring fairies, rainbows and dragons; and they attached chalk boards to the walls and provided toys for the children to use.
Moira Brooke-Williams, Director of Choices, expressed her gratitude to all the young people involved and said it was astonishing what they had managed to achieve in such a short space of time. Most importantly, she was certain that it would make a real difference to the children visiting relatives in prison, which can be an extremely challenging experience. She then cut the ribbon along with one of the NCS team to formally open the new play area.
Ruth Kearns-Smith, NCS participant, said: “It’s the first thing children see when they come to the prison, we just wanted to make it a lot brighter for them. As a group, we were happy to make a positive difference. We’ve been told we can do some more work inside the prison as well, it’s something we are all excited about in the future.”
This is one of over 30 NCS projects that have taken place in Exeter this summer alone! Programmes run in Autumn and Summer and provide a great opportunity to meet new friends, build confidence, develop skills and give back.
To find out more and get involved visit ncsyes.co.uk.