You don’t usually get the chance to attend a fete on a Friday. But on 24th August, eleven teenage volunteers will kickstart the Bank Holiday weekend with stalls and fun activities on Shaftesbury’s Park Walk.
The National Citizen Service group is arranging the event to raise cash to help young carers. “The group has only been planning this for the last week. It is literally one week of planning and one week of delivering the project,” explained project mentor Cameron Duncan-Lyon. “We started off with sessions where we learn about the community and we try to find what is wrong, to see what we can do about it.”
Each day, volunteers from towns including Gillingham, Mere, Shaftesbury and Sturminster Newton have met up to plan the event and learn more about the good cause. Cameron said the group specifically chose Shaftesbury as their base for their fundraiser because of the positive reaction they received from town residents.
“We can go anywhere in North Dorset and the group, as a whole, decided that Shaftesbury is a lovely place and that they really wanted to go there. From talking to the Town Council and locals, the people in Shaftesbury seem to be so nice and friendly. It’s a real community feel,” said Cameron.
Volunteer Robyn Whitmore says that the group had to assess each member’s strengths before allocating tasks and duties when arranging the fete. “We have all thought about what we’re good at. Some of us are good at painting nails or plaiting hair. Some of us have a lot of craft materials. We thought we could put that together with our talents and share it with the community,” said Robyn.
And the group’s resourcefulness will result in a traditional fete with fundraising, fun and food. “I’m selling cakes, everybody’s baking a few,” announced volunteer Abbie Clark.
“We’re going to sell a lot of knick knacks and there will be face painting. I really recommend that people come for the tombola. We have some amazing prizes donated by people in Shaftesbury. With the shops and the community feel, everybody is giving as much as they can,” said Cameron.
The teenagers have spent most of their summer holiday volunteering with this programme. Cameron is passionate about the scheme. He enrolled as a volunteer before he went off to university. He’s returned home to Iwerne Minster during each of the last three summer holidays to mentor young people on NCS.
“You can do the programme when you’re 16 or 17,” explained Cameron. “It’s usually after your GCSEs. It’s a break from school or learning which enables you to get more life skills. It teaches you how to be more friendly, undertake social action and give back to your community.
“When you are 16 then a lot of people look at you and think that you are not doing anything with your time in the summer. This is a way in which you can make a massive impact on the community,” he continued.
When the group heard about the experiences of local young carers, they chose to do something to support that cause. “We had someone in our group who was quite close to some young carers and we thought that their cause was not as well-known as it should be. There are so many of them, but it is still unheard of,” explained Robyn.
The group has watched videos explaining the extent of young carer responsibilities. Volunteer James Batten has learned that there are youngsters in North Dorset who can’t enjoy regular childhood activities because they are busy caring. “Obviously it means that they won’t be able to get out as much and socialise as most kids would do,” explained James. The fete will raise funds for an organisation that offers help for young carers.
“Honeypot is a children’s charity which provides respite for families and takes the children out,” said Robyn. “It costs £560 to support one child for a year. That’s what we are trying to raise money for. We want to help them and support these children,” Robyn explained.
“Honeypot supports kids between the ages of 5 and 12,” said Cameron. “They take them on day trips and give them an escape and help. A carer who is 5 can spend over 15 hours of each week helping a loved one. This is something we don’t recognise. When you walk around a primary school you don’t look around and say ‘that person is taking care of their parents’. They should be playing. Let kids, be kids,” he added.
The group’s fundraising goal is £560 – the amount that Honeypot says they need to help one young carer for a year. “From this (NCS) group alone, they will probably make a massive impact on one child and give him or her the ability to have a happy life for one year,” Cameron said.
The group has already undertaken some fundraising work at Tesco, on Tuesday. “This morning we were bag packing and we raised £218. Tomorrow, (Wednesday), we will be bag packing from 9 until 12,” said Cameron.
The money raised will be one clear outcome from this summer’s NCS volunteering. But the group members have also gained new life skills during the process. Ellie Bealing says that strangers have had to work together as a team.
“We’ve obviously worked well together on some points and in some areas we haven’t, but we’ve worked out our differences and, altogether, we are quite a good team. There have been other groups that have not gelled as well as us,” said Ellie.
Ellie said that the summer sessions have helped her to discover her own strengths. “I didn’t realise that I was as good at making friends. I am quite socially awkward, I would say. I didn’t think I would be this good at bonding with people that I didn’t know before. I don’t know if this was because they didn’t know me and it was easier to start over but it’s good to know that I can work with people better,” Ellie said.
The NCS fete starts at 11am on Friday 24th August on Park Walk in Shaftesbury. If it is wet, the event will be held inside Shaftesbury Town Hall. Cameron is urging locals to attend to support the charity and the teenage volunteers who have given up their summer to make it happen.
“If they come out on Friday, it will have a massive impact on young carers, as well as this group, to inspire them to do more. It’s not just stopping at this programme,” Cameron said. “This is actually building up for the rest of their life and allowing them to have their first stepping stone into community service and allowing them to grow as people.”