THE CHARITY BACKING SALFORD'S UNDISCOVERED TALENT
The young people at the Fairbridge centre in Weaste are capable of great things. The corridors of the place have been completely transformed by vibrant graffiti art and on proud display is a collection of intelligent and moving photography.
"The creativity and imagination we see here is inspiring. These people have so much to offer," says Tracy Minshull, manager of the centre. "What they need, and what we provide, is support."
Fairbridge is a national charity that works with 13 to 25 year olds who are dealing with a number of personal issues, from homelessness to low self esteem and a history of offending. Many are at risk of being excluded from school and, of those over 16, almost all are unemployed.
Every year, the staff at the Salford base work with around three hundred such people from Salford and Greater Manchester. The focus is on forging a stable environment in which the young people can challenge themselves, reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately take control of their lives.
A recent report, Back from the Brink: How Fairbridge transforms the lives of disadvantaged young people, showed that it is the long-term support Fairbridge provides which makes the difference.
Over the past ten years, the charity has helped over 3,290 13-25 year olds outside of education, employment or training in the Greater Manchester area. Out of these, 883 young people have gone on to enter education, training or employment, while others reported positive outcomes such as improved communication skills, improved school attendance and gaining secure housing.
Common to the majority of the young people is a childhood that has drilled into them a lack of self confidence. Having lived often chaotic lives, a respectful and trusting relationship with an adult they can count upon is a real source of self-worth.
"Learning about yourself and making necessary changes to your life and your behaviour is worth it in the long term but in the short term it can be tough and can seriously knock your confidence," explains Tracy. "It's throughout this process that our team must be there for them."
All of this, Tracy tells me, is reliant on funds from government and local authorities, as well as charitable donations. Coalition cuts are making it difficult for many school leavers to find work but the most disadvantaged face a far tougher battle, not least because these cuts will make government and local authority funding for Fairbridge, and organisations like it, much harder to access over the coming years.
In a clear attempt to get politicians to see beyond short term targets, the charity provides information packs informing the reader that the average disaffected youth costs the state £277,000 in his or her lifetime. In comparison to which, £3,500 to fund someone through their time at Fairbridge is a bargain.
A newsletter written and put together by some of the young people at the Weaste centre celebrates the thousands they raised for charity at the Great Manchester Run this year, their upcoming Carol Concert and the awesome achievements of some of their peers.
As an investment in local talent and in the self worth of some exceptional people who deserve to be seen as far more than just an expensive problem for the state; £3,500 to fund someone through their time at Fairbridge? Now that is a bargain.
For loads of fun fundraising opportunities to help Fairbridge, plus more details of its work see www.fairbridge.org.uk or click here
Words and Fairbridge art photos by Zoe Savory