ON THE GROUND: Raleigh International's At Risk Programme

Scheme: Raleigh is a youth development charity that works on projects all over the world. The organisation has set up an At Risk Programme for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who have been involved in criminal activities, drug or alcohol misuse or in the care system.

Funding: The European Social Fund contributed £560,000 directly to the At Risk Programme and the Community Fund added £300,000. A further £260,000 was raised through corporate and other smaller trust donations.

Objectives: To increase young people's confidence, motivation and skills to help them get on with their lives without turning to anti-social behaviour.

"I was 19 and not doing much apart from getting into trouble with the police. At first it was petty stuff like shoplifting, but then my brother was beaten up. I retaliated and ended up on remand in a young offender's institute,

says Raleigh volunteer Paul Conner.

It was during Conner's time on remand that he first heard about the At Risk Programme and decided to attend an introductory weekend. A few months later he was sent to Namibia to help build a school.

Conner's story is similar to many of the volunteers on the At Risk Programme, which places young people from a range of disadvantaged backgrounds on expeditions as far afield as South America and Africa.

The 17 to 25 year olds are referred to the charity through a number of organisations including the Probation Service, the Youth Service, homeless hostels and job centres, and are offered the chance to take part in a year-long progressive development programme.

Under the scheme, they attend a series of workshops and training weeks in the UK, covering areas such as presentation skills, leadership, resolving conflict and how to find a job. Towards the end of the 12 months they are offered the opportunity to take part in an expedition abroad.

Among the projects they can volunteer for are helping with sanitation schemes in Ghana, working alongside Chilean communities to construct fire stations and protecting wildlife in Costa Rica.

Around 400 young people a year enter the programme, of which half take part in the overseas projects. According to the charity, at the end of the course volunteers leave with renewed confidence and around 65 per cent go on to find work or a place at college.

For Conner it has helped him turn his back on crime. "The expedition completely changed my outlook and my level of expectation,

he says. "Now I am about to start a 10-week course in youth work."

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