Solent All Stars: Young People Changing Local Lives

Sue Stokes, founder of community garden Southsea Green, Vik Burnand and Sarah Clark, from Catch 22 Study Programme, report on Solent All Stars – their partnership project with young people in Portsmouth.

As readers may already know, Southsea Green is a well-loved community garden at Canoe Lake, where an unpredictable mix of people, young and old, come together to grow local food and flowers. But there’s so much more to this magical, green space than that.

For one thing, it’s not all about the garden. For example, we regularly run workshops like our current Greenfingers Craft programme. The garden is home to the Craft Shack where we are sometimes found playing with clay, wool or seashells with people keen to try something new.

Things have changed a lot since 2014. Back then, the garden was a derelict strip of land which was overgrown and full of old masonry. Southsea Green has moved on a little and even the trees have moved a bit! We’ve worked actively with Portsmouth City Council to encourage more local growing. We have been working hard to get the message across that gardening and volunteering are valuable and viable activities.

Another success for us has been our partnership with the lovely people of Catch 22 Portsmouth – an employability training programme aimed at 16-18 year olds. They got us thinking about how local young people – the frequent subject of complaints since the dawn of rock ‘n’ roll – can get involved in some of our more creative pursuits. What if we got some young people together, we thought, who’ve not had an easy ride? What if we helped them to think about some brilliant things they could do to help other people?

Suppose we let them pitch for money to do good deeds that help make life better for others and have a positive knock-on effect? It would be a chance to help someone else and raise funds for people whose lives are often harder than their own. Once we had the idea, we wrote a bid to the Community Foundation for funds for a ‘Youth Social Action’ project, and guess what, we won!

And Solent All Stars was born.

Solent All Stars is a youth social action project that encourages young people to design projects that benefit their local community. They form ‘Social Action Teams’ to plan their project in the hope of being awarded a budget of £50 to help them get started.

The young people go through a number of stages such as ‘Idea Generation’ Sessions and a ‘Dragons’ Den’ Arena. They then go on to lead sessions where they develop their activity with the support of mentors. These offer the teens encouragement, teach new skills and give 1 to 1 support, if needed. But what difference does this make to the young adults taking part?

Well, quite a lot!

Projects like this encourage young people to build and improve team-working skills, communication, confidence, planning, time management, problem-solving and even money management – among other things.

At the same time, the ‘all stars’ meet and engage with people in their community they may not have spoken to otherwise. They make a positive and active contribution to their community, develop new relationships with their peers and gain real-life practical experience that will help them improve their chances in the job market.

So far, 4 teams have braved the Dragons’ Den and been awarded their £50 start-up budget. Here is just a sneak-peak at what they’ve been up to, and we could not be more impressed.

Team 1: Treats For Charity

The team selling sweet treats to raise money for charity.

This team of young people are raising money for Catch22 and a local homeless charity, by running sweetie-themed tombolas. They are also planning to sell some of their sweet and hot-chocolate jars as gifts that can be purchased separately.

For more info, or to show your support, please visit their Facebook page.

Team 2: The Upcycling Charity Project

The upcycling project in development.

Furniture upcycling is at the heart of this project, with young people working with the Salvation Army Furniture Store to breathe new life into old pieces of furniture. The aim is for the Salvation Army to sell these revived items at a higher price, avoiding unwanted furniture being thrown away.

For more info, or to show your support, please visit their Facebook page.

Team 3: Children’s Hospital Kits

Children’s Hospital Kit team, Catch 22 and Sue Stokes.

This team want to improve the experience children have when they go into hospital. They are creating kits which aim to provide amusement to children who are unwell.

Team 4: Kits for People who are Homeless

An example of the homeless pack.

Inspired by the work of local homeless charities in the city, this group have decided to use their start-up budget to produce small, useful kits that will be donated to a local cause that supports people who are homeless.

But wait, there’s more!

We have 4 new teams on board who, last Friday, the 25th May, pitched their ideas to the Dragons’ Den panel. Keep your eye on the Southsea Green website or the Catch 22 Study Programme Facebook page for updates.

Main image by Southsea Greenhouse. All other photography by Catch22 Study Programme Portsmouth.