Sporting chance

24 May 2018

Finding ways to help Hopefuls get active can have a huge impact on their long-term wellbeing (both mental and physical), and is one of the most practical ways we can help them. A variety of things can get in the way of young people getting active, including lack of access to all but a very limited selection of sports, cost of clubs, or the fact that parents or carers aren’t necessarily in a position to support them in getting to practices. As a result, more than a third of children in Islington are overweight or obese by the time they leave Primary School, with children from the most deprived areas twice as likely to be obese as those from the least deprived areas.

Last year, we received a grant to cover the cost of a programme of sports taster activities led by specialist coaches, and over the past 10 months we have run classes in dance, badminton, Zumba, tennis, and Mixed Martial Arts or MMA which uses techniques from boxing, kick boxing and Muay Thai, wrestling, Ju-jutsu and judo. The MMA sessions have been a particular favourite with Hopefuls and the benefits go far beyond the physical: the sessions bring together Hopefuls from different age groups and we have seen some fantastic cohesion between young people who otherwise wouldn’t have come into contact with each other. We’ve seen young people’s concentration skills improve as they listen carefully to instructions and take advice from adults and we’ve seen their confidence and resilience grown as they try something they thought they would never be able to do, or that they have failed at in the past.

We’re looking forward to running many more of these kinds of activities in the future.

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This year, through our Transition project, in partnership with the Caspari Foundation, we've been supporting six young people as they make the move to Secondary School. Earlier in the year, we heard an educational psychotherapist’s view on why transition to secondary school is harder for some young people that others. This time, we asked some Hopefuls in year 7 about their experiences over the few months:

How did you feel before you started?

M: “I was scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen or who was going to be there.”

D: “You don’t really know what’s coming, you don’t know what your friend groups are going to be, you don’t know how the school is and if you’re going to like it. It’s a big change in your life.

What was it like on the first day?

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For the past two years, Urban Hope has been working with the Caspari Foundation to provide intensive individual support to young people making the transition to secondary school. Each year, we work with six students who are moving into year 7 and have been identified by their school or family as being at high risk of struggling with the move.

In this blog post Caspari Educational Psychotherapist Elizabeth talks about the challenges of transition, why they are greater for some students than others, and the difference that additional support can make.

“Transition to secondary school is a big shift for all young people because it involves big external changes to the pupil’s routines – finding one’s way around in a much larger environment, getting to know new people and generally being a ‘small fish in a large pond’ – and also the loss of a secure base in primary school where teachers know pupils individually and can respond to their needs accordingly. Young people might lose friends going to different schools, have difficulty making new ones, and face the fear of being bullied as the youngest pupils in the school. All this happens during the onset of adolescence, which is a turbulent time in itself.

Some young people find the transition even more difficult than others. They may have already experienced significant trauma or loss – anything from parents separating to the death of a family member – and the transition can evoke the memory of these earlier experiences. The birth of a new sibling, a house move, a parent’s mental illness or struggle with addiction can all be factors that make adaption to new environments harder for a young person. Looked-after children, having experienced a much higher degree of family break-up and loss, tend to find transitions particularly hard. Feelings of isolation, low self-esteem, difficulties in keeping up with the new pace of learning and adjusting to stricter rules and regulations are common difficulties.

In the classroom, students who are struggling with the transition will often cause low-level disruption, chatting to their classmates, making noise, tapping on the desk and other behaviours, generally avoiding learning and disturbing the learning of others. In some cases they deliberately ‘misbehave’ in order to get sent out of class so that they can avoid the learning environment altogether. In time, and without intervention, they may give up and start to truant or refuse school altogether, or, be temporarily or permanently excluded.

Educational Psychotherapy is a way of helping children and young people who have emotional barriers to learning and who struggle with social development. In 1:1 sessions, a child or young person can explore areas of difficulty with the help of a trained therapist Educational Psychotherapist (EPt) through the metaphor of books, games and other media. Problems tend to be looked at in a slightly indirect or oblique way, which can seem less threatening to the young person.

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Merry Christmas '17

15 December 2017

We finished off a great year of youth work on Wednesday night with the annual Urban Hope Christmas Party, where Hopefuls and their families plus volunteers and the Urban Hope team get together for an evening of games, crafts and eating!

This year's party featured the first ever performance by the newly-formed Hopeful Voices choir, who've been practising hard these past few weeks to prepare. Special thanks go to Rachel Lindley for leading the choir, and to all our amazing volunteers for helping out on the night itself and throughout the whole year.


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Girls Giving Back - Part 2

18 November 2017

Back in the spring, we wrote a blog post about a Nearly New sale that Urban Hope Girls Club hosted to raise money for causes they wanted to support in the local community. The sale raised nearly £700, which the girls decided they wanted to use to contribute to the work of Solace Women's Aid, a charity supporting women and children affected by domestic violence. Solace specified that they most needed children's duvet covers and board games. They also asked for toiletries, which the girls wrapped up in welcome parcels to be given out to women arriving at the refuge.

We are really proud of all the thought, effort and time that the girls have put into making a positive difference in their community this year.

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Summer at Urban Hope

20 July 2017

On Monday we're launching our 2017 Summer Programme of activities to keep young people busy and active over the summer. From 24th July, our weekly timetable looks like this:

Monday 6pm-8pm – Tennis at Rosemary Gardens

Tuesday afternoon – Trip

Wednesday 6.30-8pm – Junior Club (8-12s)

Thursday 3-5pm - Sports taster sessions (11-18s)

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Girls Giving Back

17 March 2017

The thing we most want for Urban Hopefuls is that they grow up to fulfilled adults who have good relationships, and are able to play a positive role in their own community. So we are especially proud of our Girls' Club who are organising a Nearly New Sale at Urban Hope to raise money for some community events they'd like to make happen in the coming year.

This is their poster for the sale - we'd love it if lots of people came along to support them. And if you're not able to come on the day but have some clothes you would like to donate, please email

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One of the things we like to do at Urban Hope is to give people the opportunity to spend time with and understand the lives of people they wouldn’t otherwise meet. So, we invite adults with different careers and interests to volunteer here so that Urban Hopefuls can hear about a wide spectrum of different ways to live life. We’d like that to go both ways, for adults to have a chance to hear more about the lives of young people growing up in Islington today. So we’ve been inviting Urban Hopefuls to give us a snapshot of what is going on in their lives now. This week we heard from a young woman of 18 who has been part of Urban Hope for a couple of years:

The things I like are drawing, reading, swimming and gaming. I did a college course in construction, painting and decorating but I’m now looking to do a different course in special effects make-up. I’ve got a part time job at McDonalds. I live on my own, and my mum thinks I don’t use my resources well enough but prices have gone up, and I struggle a lot. I think finding work is difficult for people my age – people are less likely to hire us because we don’t have much experience.

Teenagers get a bad rap. A lot of teenagers drop out of school because they think it’s not for them. I had a horrible time in secondary school, I was bullied and nothing was done about it. I know a lot of teenagers who carry knives because they feel unsafe, and they’re not told what to do in difficult situations. Adults and the older generation think we have so much because we have computers and stuff but I feel really isolated.

I worry that I’m not going to do well and get where I want to get. In the past when I was worried I used to self harm but I haven’t done that for a while so I’m proud of that. I matured quite fast because of crap that happened in my life. When I was younger my mum didn’t know any other mothers so there were no other kids around, I was mostly around adults.

I find it hard to talk to people and make friends and not be weird. I’ve been cheated on in almost every relationship I’ve been in. Hopefully in five years I’ll be settled down with a nice job, and living in the countryside. I’d like to be able to have a partner who I can talk to, who can help me and I can help them; someone who you can have a laugh and a joke with but who can sit down and have a serious conversation too. I have depression and anxiety, and for me being happy is when I’m around people who understand and won’t judge me.

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Matthew (above, centre) is 15 and has been coming regularly to Urban Hope since January, after a friend brought him along to try it out. He came on his first residential trip with us a couple of weeks ago. This is what he said about it:

"I heard about the residential, and I didn’t have anything else to do so I thought I’d try it. I was expecting it to be a bit boring; I thought it would rain and that would mess things up, and that the activities wouldn’t be that much fun. But it was actually really fun. The best bit was having space away from home, and it was all stuff I could do. I enjoyed walking in the woods and exploring. Banana boating was something new, I’d like to do more of that. I played sardines for the first time, and that was fun too. The house was old and a bit creepy, and that made it exciting.

I’d been to the countryside once before but to a different part. You get experiences that you don’t get round here, like being out in the quiet and dark and exploring places you haven’t been before. We haven’t got woods round here, and it was so quiet and so dark at night, and it made you notice how busy and noisy life is here.

I’d never been stayed away somewhere with friends, so that was good too. There was lots of jokes. It was better without wifi because if there’d been more wifi, we’d all have been in and playing on our phones and when it was time for the activities we’d have been sighing and stuff. I had data on my phone so I could have been on it the whole time but I didn’t want to be because there was experiences to have.

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The same but different

26 June 2016

The Urban Hope team hasn’t been blogging much of late. Partly, that's because it has just been business as usual but really there is nothing usual about the business of youth work. Since our last blog post we have seen young people dealing with exam stress, falling out with friends, falling in love, struggling with bullying, finding themselves homeless, finding a sport they love, having severe health problems, following their dream and achieving success, being excluded from school, getting into trouble with the police, getting into trouble with parents, moving to new schools, learning new skills, making new friends. It’s all familiar and unfamiliar at the same time because every young person is different.

And here are a few of the things we’ve done with Urban Hopefuls in that time:

  • Cooked dozens of meals and sat together around a table to eat them
  • Entered a competition
  • Gone on two residentials
  • Designed t-shirts
  • Attended meetings with schools and social services
  • Hosted a party for residents of a local sheltered housing facility
  • Played hours and hours of table tennis, pool, table football, dobble, uno…
  • Formed a (small!) running club
  • Washed up a lot of pots and pans
  • Held a six-week sketching project
  • Talked about elections, relationships, social media, food, friendships
  • Had a dance-off
  • Held a casting session
  • Run a boxercise session
  • Made badges, keyrings, magnets, papier maché letters, cakes and brownies.
  • Been to the theatre

And the summer has only just begun, so watch this space…

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