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No one does Christmas like Wigan Youth Zone, always a magical time of year where hundreds of young people are welcomed to enjoy festive fun, Christmas Dinner and presents from Santa. However due to Covid-19, the coronavirus pandemic caused Wigan Youth Zone to cancel all of their vital Christmas events, which allows vulnerable families a Christmas to remember with the help from local community.
The team fought creatively to ensure that nothing could stop a Wigan Youth Zone Christmas by bringing some Christmas Sparkle to over 300 family’s doors. Father Christmas and his elves delivered a Christmas decorated truck full of presents and food hampers to families who don’t have the opportunity to celebrate.
Through the incredible support from the Wigan and Leigh community, 330 Wiganers received presents and a Christmas Dinner. Traditionally people across the Wigan Borough come together as one to donate food, presents and household products to give to the families who need it most.
As well as boxing up a Christmas meal, receiving gifts off Santa, and a family hamper, Wigan Youth Zone also hosted a stay-at-home event for the whole family to enjoy. Wigan Youth Zone’s Big Night In was a festive celebration of all things Wigan Youth Zone, including entertainment from talented members, celebrity messages and a raffle!
Over 3000 donations
300 of food hampers
100 CO-OP vouchers
300 families helped
330 young people who received presents
300 Christmas dinners
85 live viewers
And raised £10,000
One family said: “This has been such a tough year, I thought we was going to have to cancel Christmas. I couldn’t thank those involved enough, I was in tears when I saw the kids see all of their presents.”
Anthony Ashworth-Steen, Wigan Youth Zone’s Executive Director said: “I am blown away by the support we have received to help over three hundred people – once again the community of Wigan and Leigh has rallied together to support the young people and families most in need and I would like to thank everyone who supported for making this a reality. Through our collective efforts we have been able to support more people than ever before, demonstrating the need and the importance of the Mission Christmas campaign. As we look forward to 2021 we will continue to do everything we can to support the young people of Wigan and Leigh.
With experience of working in informal education for over 15 years and a Masters in Educational Leadership, Anthony is always looking out for new ways to help support and empower young people in Wigan and Leigh. Since taking up his position in 2017, Anthony has been eager to build on past successes to further raise the profile of Wigan Youth Zone on a local, regional and national level (and has taken the organisation through a series of changes to help accomplish this.)
With over nine years’ experience and a degree in Events Management, Charlotte joined the team in 2019 and is passionate about sharing the amazing stories and memories that Wigan Youth Zone help to create, as well as working as an inspiring mentor for young people.
Siky has attended and enjoyed youth clubs himself since the age of ten and has 15 years of experience as a youth worker. Joining us back in 2013, Siky’s mission is to help us ensure that we offer the best services for children and young people in Wigan.
As a qualified teacher with a specialism in music, Mike has worked with young people for the past ten years in a variety of settings, from young offenders institutes, to pupil referral units and behavioural schools. Originally working in the music department, Mike now heads up the Youth Zones’ mentoring programme, recruiting volunteers to match with and support our local young people.
Kate has been working with and for young people for over 15 years and has carried out various roles for us since 2013. She believes that the volunteers have an immeasurable impact on the Youth Zone and is passionate about the professional development of the team. Being a part of the community and fundraising events has given Kate some of her career highlights.
Former volunteer, Kim joined the team full-time in 2014 after completing a degree in Youth and Community Work, with years of involvement within her local church youth club behind her. Currently assisting with the coordination of enterprise and employability, Kim helps young people get on the right path by developing their skills in business and entrepreneurship. She said: “I do it because I really love it. I’m working in my dream job!”
With over 12 years experience in the corporate world, Lynsey joined us back in 2019, bringing a wealth of skills and knowledge with her. Lynsey loves connecting local businesses with the Youth Zone and as a proud Wiganer, is honoured to be raising funds, so that many other young people can go on to achieve their own dreams. Lynsey is a keen runner and is often seen out and about pounding the pavements to help raise the pennies!
Former volunteer at the Youth Zone, Jay has been working with young people for over 14 years and is responsible for planning, overseeing, and directing the operations of our lively recreational area, whilst also delivering a range of specialist training to other clubs across our network.
As an artist herself and a long background of working creatively in the community, Catherine delivers a range of workshops and sessions at the Youth Zone, offering a calm and productive space for young people to create art and learn new skills. Catherine said: “I love my job at Wigan Youth Zone, it gives me a chance to empower young people and make them believe in themselves!”
Dave joined our team in 2016 through the Wigan Athletic Community Trust, having completed a degree in Community Football Coaching and Development. As a qualified sports coach and experience of working with Watford FC and Oxford United, Dave oversees an exciting range of indoor and outdoor facilities at the Youth Zone and manages a variety of action-packed activities and games for young people to enjoy.
With experience of working with young people for over five years now, Amy joins the team as our dedicated Pathway 2 Participation Coordinator, inspiring confidence and encouraging engagement with the Youth Zone. Amy works to support the mental and physical wellbeing within the local youth community, and said: “My passion is having a positive impact on young people and helping them to have a positive outlook on life.”
Over the past five years, Liz has worked with Onside to develop and deliver a bespoke leadership and management programme that supports managers within Youth Zones across the UK, helping them to achieve their full potential. Liz enjoys contributing to the safe and effective running of the Zone and credits the more unusual requests she gets to always putting a smile on her face, such as singing along in the Christmas video!
Since 2016, Hannah has helped to coordinate and run an exciting range of external projects, such as Get Out Get Active, EmpowHER and Feel Good Fest, a disability festival themed fun day held every September. Hannah has even learnt British Sign Language through the Wigan Deaf Society and can usually be found in ‘The Den’, chatting about Harry Potter and Disney films!
Avid local sports fan, weekend triathlete and Chartered Accountant Paul lives with his young family in Shevington, and as a born and bred Wiganer, is keen to lend his professional skills and time to helping others in his community. Paul said: “The biggest value is seeing the continued great work of the Youth Zone for the young people of Wigan and Leigh and the resulting growth and development of our members. It gives me great pride to be able to tell people I am involved with the Youth Zone.”
As a mum and family lawyer, Charlotte is keen to go the extra mile with making positive changes in her community, ensuring that young people living locally have access to crucial provisions and resources at the Youth Zone. Charlotte said: “Hearing from our members helps bring home what we do as a board and what we are doing on a day-to-day basis for children living locally. My involvement goes a little way to help give something back.”
Susan’s career as a Regeneration Professional has spanned over 35 years, working around the country on a diverse range of projects. She is passionate about ensuring that young people are listened to, helping to provide them with the skills, opportunity and support to both recognise and exceed their potential. Susan said: “The partnerships that we have formed and strengthened over the last couple of years provides so much hope for the future of our borough and our young people.”
Wigan enthusiast Gary has enjoyed a long career working with some of the biggest brands in the UK and has been with the Youth Zone right from its roots, establishing the business as a founding patron. Gary said: “Right from the outset, I believed in what Wigan Youth Zone was seeking to deliver and the potential positive impact it could have on local young people, something close to my heart.”
After serving in the Royal Air Force and working in joinery and construction, Graham joined the children’s services in Wigan Council, where he has worked for the past 26 years. As a qualified social worker, he is Service Lead for the targeted Youth Support and Start Well services and joins us as the council’s dedicated representative. Graham said: “I value the opportunity to support and shape a range of opportunities for young people, helping them to develop important life skills and become positive members of society.”
Richard, owner of Network Space, a commercial property business in the north of England, joined our chair in 2019, having been a patron for some years before. His charitable work is focussed on trying to help young people realise their full potential. A keen advocate of continuous improvement, Richard ensures that the youth zone is always looking to enhance the services it provides by listening to feedback and suggestions from our members.
As the owner and Chief Operating Officer of a large law firm, with experience of working as a commercial lawyer for 20 years prior, Jonathan advises the Youth Zone using his expert legal background and has been working with the charity since the beginning of its development. Jonathan said: “After becoming a member of the board, my middle son was diagnosed as having Autism Spectrum Condition, so the importance of supporting young people who face challenges in life is something that I have experienced first-hand. It is a privilege to be part of such a fantastic project.”
As a qualified Youth Worker and the Network Director of OnSide Youth Zones, Helen is passionate about serving as a Trustee and values the opportunity to stay connected with the Youth Zone offer, which she represents nationally. Helen said: “I love the creativity and can-do attitude of the team at Wigan Youth Zone- I know how dedicated they are to giving young people great opportunities and the support to succeed.”
Jackie Salt brings a wealth of digital marketing skills as Commercial Manager of Wigan-based agency, ATTAIN. Since joining the board in April 2019, Jackie has advised on fundraising, events and marketing, as well as becoming heavily involved in Wigan Youth Zone’s Young Enterprise programme.
Gill has worked in local government for over 30 years, managing a range of front-line services as a Corporate Director and addressing important issues within her community. Now running her own business, Gill provides leadership and management training, qualifications and business coaching. She said: “I value being part of an organisation that helps to make a difference to so many young peoples’ lives, to enable them to develop new skills, gain confidence and to have the amazing opportunities the Youth Zone provides.”
Born and bred in Wigan, Nigel joined the board in 2018, having originally supported Wigan Youth Zone as a patron. Nigel brings a wealth of HR expertise, having run his own consultancy for 12 years. Nigel said: “I remember feeling how overwhelmed I was when I visited the site for the first time and seeing all the work they do. Who wouldn’t want to get involved and help those who change the lives of many young people!”
Daniela joined our team for a short fix term, but loved it so much and has stayed ever since! Daniela brings over ten years of experience in data and systems coordination, whilst also overseeing various HR tasks. She said: “I love how we make a real difference and I try to help when possible, running to raise funding and even taking a tandem skydive!”
Mike has spent the last seven years on the streets and parks of Wigan. Before that, he was a lot warmer, especially during his eight years in Slovakia! With successes as head teacher, sales manager and computer games designer, working all over the UK and beyond, Mike eventually returned to his roots to eat pies, watch rugby and help young people in the borough by pounding the pavement, running transport to the Youth Zone and delivering local youth groups.
During the height of Lockdown in 2020, X-Factor winner Sam Bailey gave free voice coaching sessions to two young Wigan Youth Zone members supported by Little Dreams Foundation.
Little Dreams Foundation, was set up in the year 2000 by husband and wife stars Phil and Orianne Collins as an international initiative to support young talent in music, arts and sports.
Sam, a huge Phil Collins fan, donated her time during the lockdown to conduct online training sessions to teach talented young singers Emily Pearce, 17, and Georgia Linde, 15, performance techniques including body and face movements as part of the programme.
Sam Bailey said; “I am loving working with Emily and Georgia from Wigan Youth Zone, they are two very talented young ladies with great potential and it’s great to be able to share some wisdom with them. Phil has been an inspiration for my whole family my entire life, so to be able to pay it forward in such a great way is fantastic!”
Since the Youth Zones involved with the Little Dreams Foundation, the teens have had extraordinary opportunities such as flying out to Miami and performing with Phil Collins himself and other Little Dreamers. They have been supported by the foundation through Wigan Youth Zone for two years now and have developed massively both personally and musically.
Georgia said: “I have had an amazing experience within the past two years being with the Little Dreamers. I never thought I would be able to experience such great opportunities, the favourite being singing with Phil Collins in Miami. I am thoroughly enjoying working on my new material and it has been amazing to work with Sam who is really helping me with my performance.”
Nikki Varley, Deputy Head of Youth Work at Wigan Youth Zone said: “Our tagline at the centre is ‘Somewhere to go, Something to do, Someone to talk to’ and this messaging is more important than ever before with the current crisis at hand.
Emily said: It feels amazing to get training off a celebrity who so many people know, we are fans of Sam, and she has years of experience in the industry that she can share with us. It’s been very empowering for me. The zoom sessions are something to look forward to and I’ve already learned a lot,”
Ian encourages creativity to run wild at the Zone and has worked with bands and instruments for over 20 years. With experience of working in youth centres for over a decade, Ian ensures that there is something for every young person to try out, from guitar and drum lessons, singing and song-writing, DJ-ing skills and much more!
Wigan Youth Zone reacted quickly to the news that children will be without food support during the 2020 October half term and asked local families who needed support to get in touch. Wigan Youth Zone distributed over 120 food parcels and 50 food vouchers ensuring that Wigan children in need were able to get a meal during half-term.
Since April 2020, Wigan YZ have been supporting local young people and their families with packages of support which included art and craft deliveries, one-to-one calls and digital support using Zoom and social media to engage and entertain those isolated at home. However, in response to the government’s position on free school meals the Youth Zone has been providing free holiday club and free school meal as part of the HAF provision.
Youth Worker Andy Nicholls said:
“I was fortunate enough to deliver some of these to some of our families that I work with. The gratitude, the appreciation and smiles on the children’s and parent’s faces was something else. I am really taken aback as to how it impacted me. You just never know a families individual situation as much as you’d like to think you do. It was such a humbling experience.”
One family said:
“Oh wow. I can’t thank you enough. I’m sat here in tears. I’ve never asked for help in my life and I promise to return donations once we are back on our feet”
Provided Free Entry for those on Free School Meals
It does not take much imagination to recognise the incredible difference that Wigan Youth Zone has made during the pandemic to the quality of life of the local community. It is, however, hard to appreciate just how traumatic the last 12 months have been for many, and in turn, just how invaluable is the provision that Wigan Youth Zone provides.
Our admiration for those selfless people who are providing the support is surely beyond words: it is simply priceless!
We are so proud to have been able to add even further to our offer for young people this year, from a dedicated well-being team providing 1-1 holistic support for young people, to our inclusion team ensuring we are removing barriers to access the youth zone for young people with additional support needs and ensuring a level playing field for young people, and our dedicated group in partnership with Wigan Council for looked after children.
This report provides a brief, but important glimpse of how vital Wigan Youth Zone is to the local community, and I share your admiration of our staff, our members, our wonderful volunteers and of course our vital supporters. Thank you for supporting us and allowing us to change lives in such a positive way.
AJ has been working with young people for over 6 years, with a particular focus on inclusivity and helping marginalised young people feel more accepted in their community. They like to ensure that young people feel confident to take part in activities at the Youth Zone by taking part with them and accepting everyone. They’ll be easy to spot each session, with a range of funky earrings appropriate for the season and any holidays!
Karen ensures that everyone has access to a healthy meal at our café and has a wealth of experience in catering, previously working as a cook for 24 years before joining us. Having also led her local church youth group, Karen supports our mission to make the Zone a positive and supportive environment for any young person to feel welcomed into.
Previous office and admin volunteer at the Youth Zone, Steph formally joined our team back in 2014 and now looks after our day-to-day bookkeeping, taking on the important role of looking after payroll and accounts.
With experience of volunteering in holiday clubs during her school holidays, Louise advanced to achieve her college qualification in Nursery Nursing and a degree. Louise loves getting creative, thinking up new exciting ideas and themes for our holiday clubs, and is always busy providing an assortment of entertaining activities for everyone to come and enjoy!
Chris has been working in the outdoors since 2005 and leads a variety of action-packed activities for young people to enjoy, managing our specialist equipment and facilities, whilst also overseeing our DofE programme. Chris is a trained mountain leader, rock-climbing instructor, paddle sports coach and first aider, and is always looking forward to the next exciting trip out!
Steven oversees our range of amazing facilities that we offer to local young people and is responsible for managing the health and safety here at the Zone, keeping everyone safe and sound! Steven can also often be found organising a variety of fantastic internal and external fundraising events, such as the yearly Reet Good Beer Festival.
Sharon enjoys arranging a wide range of fundraising events for Wigan Youth Zone and brings 15 years of corporate experience to the table. Sharon is always on the lookout for new partnerships, helping us to maintain vital relationships with many local businesses across Wigan and Leigh.
We first met Andy in the summer of 2013, where he was selling ice creams for us at an open day! A keen fundraiser, Andy has pedalled around the country for us and works closely day-to-day with youth participation, listening and closely involving our members in everything we do, as well as engaging with local schools and community projects.
With a background in secondary school education and experience as a Football Coach, Steven now leads as the Senior Club Manager and never has two days the same at the Zone! Steven said: Everyone here is always so welcoming and willing to go above and beyond on a daily basis in order to deliver the best experiences possible for the young people of Wigan!”
The first of many smiling faces you will see, Chris has been with us since we first opened, starting part-time on the reception desk and progressing his way through to management! A key member of our busy team, Chris said: “The best part of my job is seeing our young people coming through the doors to enjoy the activities that we have on offer seven days a week.”
Hayley is passionate about supporting young people and oversees various safeguarding responsibilities at the Zone, as well as working with our counselling partnership. She enjoys getting out and about on our community outreach programme and is a huge supporter of female empowerment. Everyone at the club knows Hayley for her love for animals, dance…and cheese!
Jack has worked with Wigan Community Trust since 2015 as a school sports coach, but is based right here at the Zone as our dedicated football officer. Jack relishes the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of young people through the power of sport and is keen to get more people passionate about football.
Nikki is passionate about providing young people with great experiences and opportunities by overseeing a variety of inspiring youth work. With qualifications in Media and Communications, Mental Health First Aid and British Sign Language, Nikki is always looking to expand her skills and try something new.
After training at college and stage School, Joe performed around Spain, eventually returning to his roots to teach dance for us, with previous experience of coaching behind him. Joe said: “I received offers to go back to Spain and go around the world on a cruise ship, but I saw an opportunity to develop here. I want the next generation of Wigan to be passionate about dance!”
With more than 15 years of experience in HR, Lisa joined us back in 2013. She is passionate about ensuring that the health and wellbeing of the whole team is at the heart of our work and is committed to our mission of providing young people with the brightest futures possible- even taking on a tandem skydive, despite her fear of heights, to raise funds for us!
As the Director of a Licensed Insolvency Practice, Lisa has spent the last 25 years providing critical advice and support to those who find themselves in financial difficulty. Her passion for helping others doesn’t stop there, as she is keen to use her time and skills to make a difference to the lives of young people in Wigan & Leigh. Lisa said: “At the heart of all the decisions we make, we should always keep the best interests and focus on the young people we are trying to support.”