New YHA Chief Executive James Blake, who was appointed last year, has spearheaded the launch of the Challenging Places Support Programme supported by The School Journey Association (SJA), as part of his aim to put the 87-year-old youth hostelling charity back on the map as a leading national charity for young people.
He explained: “As the new CEO, I would like to see many more of our guests and members knowing about YHA’s fantastic work as a national charity for young people. We are sharpening our focus to be clearer about the contribution we make to improving physical and mental health and wellbeing, and developing crucial life skills.”
“Whether it is staying away from home, or seeing the countryside or the sea for the first time; meeting new people in our social spaces; or trying new activities and experiences, we want young people to go home happier, healthier and more confident than when they arrived.”
YHA’s Challenging Places support programme provides up to two nights’ free accommodation and food at a Youth Hostel for specialist youth groups located in areas of high deprivation and severe poverty. This life-changing experience is targeted at young people aged eight to 18 who haven’t experienced a trip away before.
The new programme is part of a package of support from YHA for young people which focuses on their mental and physical health and wellbeing. Earlier this year YHA launched its Educational Support and Family Breaks programmes, both of which provide either free or discounted stays in a Youth Hostel in England and Wales.
The development of YHA’s support programmes has been driven by independent research which has shown that:
• 1 in 4 children live in poverty and the problem is growing. 5 million children will be living in poverty by 2022
• 1 in 10 young people are living with a mental health problem
• Over 2 million children never experience a break from their challenging lives
The launch of the new support programmes and sharpening of YHA’s charitable focus has been enabled by significant investment in its network of Youth Hostels over the last 10 years. The investment has attracted new customers, giving the charity financial security which it can now reinvest to help even more disadvantaged young people.
James added: “We have spent a number of years modernising our accommodation and bringing it up to such a standard that more people now want to come and stay with us. Every bed in every hostel has the potential to make a difference and the revenue this generates allows us to make a positive impact on disadvantaged young people.
“We have a saying in YHA that where you go changes who you become. Our research shows that giving young people the opportunity to enjoy a break at a Youth Hostel will have a positive effect on their mental and physical health and wellbeing as well as giving them new skills for life. This understanding is helping reshape our priorities, enabling us to focus on addressing the challenges facing young people today.”
Challenging Places and Family Breaks are part of a package of support programmes and partnerships YHA is now developing with corporate partners and charities. Challenging Places is being supported by the School Journey Association (SJA), a school group travel charity. It has committed £20,000 of funding to support the programme for two years.
Ivor Morgan, Director of The School Journey Association, commented;
“The School Journey Association are thrilled to be working in partnership with YHA in supporting such a fantastic and worthwhile programme. SJA hopes to reach lots of young people through Challenging Places, helping to create some happy memories via the power of travel.”
Applications for YHA Challenging Places support programme are invited until 1 April 2018.
Education, community and voluntary groups located in areas of deprivation and poverty are all eligible to apply for a two night stay and meals in a Youth Hostel in England and Wales.