Local charity, Safe Spaces for All, are currently seeking to recruit Christian tutors and helpers to facilitate the expansion of their connect-Ed initiative.
Currently, the project supports seven young teenagers who have experienced bullying or other school-related anxiety which has forced their withdrawal from mainstream educational settings.
At present, the young people get together with their tutors on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings to study KS3/GCSE English, Maths, an OCN certificate in ICT as well as the Prince’s Trust qualification which is equivalent to two GCSEs. Supplementary activities included Physical Education, (provided by Coaching4Christ) and the Youth Enterprise QuickStart programme which teaches young people how to setup and run a business.
Founded by Ric and Karen Wilton, connect-Ed opened its doors last March. Karen revealed why the project was started, she said: “Several years ago, one of our children was bullied by a primary school teacher to the point that all of his confidence was completely stripped away. For the first time in his life he became deeply withdrawn and desperately unhappy. It’s a long and painful story that necessitated a school move, a need to resign my career in order to spend time ‘rebuilding’ our child, months and months of sleepless nights and a much wider family impact. Eventually we had no choice but to deregister from mainstream schooling and to find a new way forward. Sadly, we have come to find out that our child is far from alone and we receive weekly calls from concerned parents who are walking through the same worrying and lonely path. We have setup Connect-Ed to provide a safe, nurturing and empowering environment for amazing kids that need to be reminded of just how amazing they are”.
Karen and Ric were keen to point out they see themselves as a partner in the nurturing of the young people in our community: “We’re absolutely advocates of children remaining in mainstream education where they can. We become just one option if the mainstream path simply isn’t working out”.
connect-Ed is based at Coaching4Christ in Ahoghill, where Ric, Karen and their team have worked hard to create a space where the young people they help can feel encouraged and understood.
Ric said: “Part of our family’s story also involved my retraining as a trauma therapist. I firmly believe that all behaviour is communication whether this takes the form of ‘acting out’ where a child may appear angry, or ‘acting in’ where a young person becomes withdrawn and chooses to isolate themselves. Those who withdraw are more at risk of self-harm or suicide. We offer a special place where isolated and withdrawn young people can feel safe enough and loved enough to start to believe in themselves again.”
Already, connect-Ed is having a life-changing impact on the lives of the young people who take part: “The programme is having a massive impact. We are seeing children who come into us really withdrawn, very anxious and just not in great shape. Within a short space of time, they are laughing; they are happy because they are in a different kind of environment and feel so much better about themselves”, smiles Karen. “What we are also seeing is that the young people coming to us are amazingly empathetic kids. They are uniquely compassionate and very gifted young people. They are a joy and privilege to be around,” she adds.
Everyone involved with connect-Ed would love to see the project expand to offer a greater number of places, more subjects and more learning time. This will only be possible with increased funding and more tutors and helpers. If you are a Christian teacher, willing volunteer or someone who would commit to praying for these incredible young people, Karen would love to hear from you.
Find out more about the vision of connect-Ed and also contact details if you would like to get in touch with them on their website.