Youth United catch up with Newham's Girls' Brigade

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Youth United catch up with Newham’s Girls’ Brigade

 20th June 2014

Youth United VisitIn England and Wales, Girls’ Brigade (GB) works with churches and schools to develop tailored outreach groups which enable children and young people to discover life to the full through rewarding, stretching and positive opportunities. Custom House Newham is one of the latest Girls’ Brigade units to be opened in inner city London through Youth United.

The group, based in Newham’s Custom House Baptist Church, is situated in an area rich in religious and cultural diversity – having one of the highest ethnic minority populations of all the districts in the country – but the borough is severely deprived in the financial resources necessary to offer important opportunities to its younger generations.

The small Baptist church has been eager to connect with these diverse and challenged communities, with a precise aim to link the children and young people from different nationalities together to build community relations and understanding. It was when the church opened its doors to the Girls’ Brigade that these ideas began to take root and blossom.

‘It’s a poor area’ says lead volunteer, Bose Agbesanwa, ‘many of the families struggle to make ends meet here’ she explains as she unwraps the plates of freshly made sandwiches for the girls. ‘We always provide food at the end of the group, some local businesses have donated things like chicken to us, it’s important as for a few it may be the only meal they have that evening’.
It’s this tireless effort of the group leaders, which has led to much progress in the young peoples’ social and academic engagement despite their beginning in 2013. Hope, 14, is one of the girls that has been attending the group since October last year after experiencing problems with bullies and says the group acts as an escape from the worries she has at school.
“Girls’ Brigade gives me one-to-one help and I’ve really improved at school. The leaders will always talk through anything challenging and it’s easier to make friends here”.
There’s a real sense of the bond the young people have made with the leaders, offering not just an outlet or talking therapy, but friendship and advice also. The group’s work doesn’t just impact positively on the attendee’s schoolwork, but on their ongoing life skills and self-confidence also, with Hope using her first aid module to help a friend in need of medical assistance.
“I was with my friends and one of them fainted, because the Girls’ Brigade leaders taught us first aid and crisis skills I knew how to keep calm and help her. I felt proud that I wasn’t scared and I’d managed to look after my friend when she was hurt”.
It has been this grassroots approach of the Girls’ Brigade within Newham which dedicates itself well to the London borough’s own motto ‘Progress with the people’ and is proven through its growing popularity with the local families and attendees.
“We’re regularly seeing new girls joining,” says Sally Claydon, a development worker for Girls’ Brigade.  “It’s been great to see how the group are engaging with the wider community, bringing young people from a range of backgrounds together.”
They hope that in the future the girls will progress through the groups becoming role models for the other attendees in years to come. In addition to this, Bose Agbesanwa, lead volunteer for Newham, recently completed her residential training to take the young people away on trips or summer camps during school holidays.