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How Swan Youth Project brings Pride to their community

29 June 2022

Swan Youth Project runs weekday after school to give young people in Berkhamsted a safe space to relax, socialize, learn and develop. Young people predominantly aged 11 – 18 years can drop in as often as they like and take part in a variety of sessions such as gardening, cooking, games, karate sessions, and outreach work at the local skate park.

Every session has a food element to it, whether that’s cooking a full meal or healthy snacks or growing vegetables as lots of the young people either won’t get a meal or would just eat junk-food instead.

Pride in the community

As project manager Parul Dix explains, the project is inclusive to all and has a large LBGTQ+ community among the young people who attend: “Our focus is on making everyone feel welcome and on giving the young people a space to express themselves. We build their confidence and get them to take pride in their individuality and own unique personalities rather than feeling like they have to conform.”

For Pride month, they organized a Pride Party on 10 June. This involved dressing up, disco, party games and rainbow coloured food like pizza and a rainbow salad.

Swan Youth Project collect food from Waitrose and Tesco through the FareShare Go scheme, which they have been a part of since May 2021.

As Parul says: “The food we receive from Tesco and Waitrose through Fareshare Go is a key element to the service we provide. We use the donations for cooking with the young people and providing healthy snacks for them.”

They enjoy getting fresh fruit and vegetables as often this is food that the young people will not have access to at home. Blueberries are big hit! They also cook pasta and rice dishes incorporating the ingredients received from Fareshare Go.

They have noticed their tuck shop sales have dropped considerably since they started Fareshare Go collections as the young people have started to prefer the healthier snacks on offer which they are really happy about.

Supporting young people when they need it most

The project have noticed that demand for their service has been rising and think this is as a consequence of the cost of living crisis. They are also going to open their doors to younger children in primary as they feel there is a big need in relation to mental health issues affecting young people.

In the summer Swan Youth Project are running a ‘Happy Project’ which is basically a holiday hunger scheme for the young people who usually receive free school meals but are at risk of going without unless they get this support.

Swan Youth Project’s Pride-themed rainbow salad

“Our focus is on making everyone feel welcome and on giving the young people a space to express themselves. We build their confidence and get them to take pride in their individuality and own unique personalities rather than feeling like they have to conform.”

Parul Dix, Swan Youth Project