TimeBank pilots youth initiative

TimeBank is piloting a new youth initiative that aims to encourage school children to create and manage community projects and commit more time to volunteering in their local areas.

Designed in conjunction with a number of youth agencies, the scheme will operate in schools and youth projects across the UK if current trials in London prove successful.

"We see this project as standing aside from classroom teaching,

said James Edleson, a spokesman at TimeBank. "The aim was to give young people something that is theirs and isn't pushed on them by teachers or the national curriculum. It's important that we approach this in a way that will be respected and understood."

Accessed through a central web site or via a CD-Rom, the programme enables children to stipulate areas of interest such as sports or environment and then guides them through the process of setting up a club or group that will work towards specific aims in their local community. It will also give advice on how to secure funding, and promote and market their project.

Children will also be able to find out about volunteering opportunities in their local area, and tailor their search according to how much time they want to give and what skills they can contribute.

TimeBank has worked with youth organisations including Millennium Volunteers and the Youth Action Network to build a programme that would give the greatest scope to young people looking to take part in the scheme. "We haven't designed a generic scheme that asks kids to get involved because it's 'good' for them or because their teachers say they have to,

said Edleson. "This is where a lot of youth schemes go wrong. Instead we were focused on launching something that will give people an opportunity to change something they don't like, or spend more time doing something they really enjoy."

TimeBank is working with its network of TimePartners to tailor each piece of software to an individual school or youth group, so that the information generated accurately reflects the separate issues and concerns of each individual community.

Edleson believes that although schemes such as TimeBank are moving in the right direction, many projects still fall short of actively engaging young people in the right way.

"Support and opportunities for young people is severely lacking and projects which give groups the chance to run their own activities are few and far between

he said. "The voluntary sector needs to work more closely together to ensure that young people can engage with the community from a younger age."

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