Investing in young people achieves results in Arran

The outstanding contribution of two youth workers at a Church-supported youth project in Arran has been recognised at a national awards ceremony.

Graeme Johnston
Graeme Johnston with his Youth Worker of the Year award.

Graeme Johnston and Hollie Watkins have have been named full-time and part-time Youth Worker of the Year at an awards ceremony for Youthlink, the national agency for youth work.

The pair work with young people at Arran Youth Foundations, which is based partly at Brodick Church, St Bride's Church of Scotland on Arran, and is supported by the Church of Scotland’s Go For it-fund.

They were nominated by Leigh Boyd, one of the project’s youth members.

Across Scotland many youth projects are hosted or supported by the Church of Scotland.

A recent survey found that 67 percent of Church of Scotland congregations are involved in youth work while even more, 82 percent, are involved in school chaplaincy. Many churches also work closely with the Girls and Boys Brigades.

The Church and Society Council's Speak Out initiative surveyed church members last year and identified ‘Investing in young people’ as one of the seven key priorities for Church of Scotland congregations.

Innovative work

Arran Youth Foundations received a Go For It Main Grant of £27,000 over a three year period and are currently receiving a Continuation Grant of £18,000, which runs over two years.

David Williams, Go For It Fund Manager, congratulated Graeme, Hollie and Arran Youth Foundations saying:

“The Church of Scotland’s Go For It Fund has helped to resource Arran Youth Foundations for the last four years.

“I would like to congratulate both Graeme and Hollie on their awards.

“The Church of Scotland is delighted to be playing a part in Arran Youth Foundations’ highly innovative work in helping young people develop and find their purposes in the world.”

The project is using Go For It funding to provide weekly activities—drop-in sessions, trips, sports, cooking, film and music clubs—to increase confidence and develop leadership among young people.

Arran Youth Foundations is also working to support LGBT+ youth who have experiences bullying at school. And with just one social worker on the island, third sector workers have been invited to take an increasingly important role.

Dream team

Both Graeme and Hollie are trained to work one-to-one with young people who have behavioural problems.

Helen Kerr, secretary of Arran Youth Foundations said:

“Graeme and Hollie are our dream team and we are extremely proud of them both.

“Those of us who volunteer to work with them are so amazed at their commitment and, to use a rather old fashioned word, ‘devotion’ they have for the wellbeing of all the young people in AYF.”

Graeme, who won after being shortlisted for the second year running said:

“The great thing about youth work is knowing you are empowering young people and helping them to have a voice.

“Jim Sweeney, the Chief Exec of YouthLink Scotland said it best at the awards, ‘Young people don't need to be told, they need to be listened to’.

“I want to say a big thanks to Arran Youth Foundation for giving me the best job in the world, and a massive thanks to the young folk of Arran for making it the best job in the world."

Hollie said:

"It feels amazing. I'm still in a state of shock.

“It feels good knowing the young folk have a safe place where they can be themselves.

“Youth work teaches our young folk life skills and helps make them happy and content which can only be a good thing."

See a full list of the award winners:

Learn more about Arran Youth Foundations