Young people gaining a voice in their East Durham communities

May 21, 2024 | Local News

Two communities in County Durham are being put under the microscope by young residents who are looking for ways to make a difference where they live.

Children at the STARS Youth Voices projects, in Wheatley Hill and the Hesleden and Blackhall area, are learning about the decision makers who shape their community and the organisations that keep them safe.

They are meeting key figures in their neighbourhood such as councillors, police officers, and staff from housing association believe housing, which is funding the project with a £9,580 grant.

Youngsters are also taking part in activities that teach them about their rights, while having fun and enjoying a meal together at the free weekly sessions.

Using the information they gather, the children will consider what they want to address in their community, so their rights are met and to improve the lives of fellow residents.

Project leader, Durham County Councillor Stacey Deinali, said: “Through learning about their rights, children will understand the importance of having their needs met for positive mental and physical health.

“We want them to gain confidence, have pride in their community, and to make a difference for themselves and those around them.

“We hope the project enhances community cohesion and helps our young people to develop key skills and networks to continue playing an active part in their communities as they grow.”

The project was established by STARS Community Learning CIC (Community Interest Company), which identified high levels of deprivation and antisocial behaviour in both communities.

By talking to Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen’s team, the local PCSO, and Durham County Councillors, leaders recognised a need for affordable youth activities that create opportunities for youngsters to gain key life skills so they can become independent, confident adults who are engaged in society.

Louise Taylor, Executive Director of Governance and Strategy at believe housing, said: “By funding this project we are helping to create both fun and educational opportunities for young people, and making sure that cost is not a barrier for some families taking part.

“We want our homes and communities to be safe, sustainable places where people want to live and hopefully STARs Youth Voices can inspire the next generation of leaders to take an interest in making their community a better place.”