In 2019 The Benjamin Foundation is celebrating its 25th anniversary. We help people across Norfolk and Suffolk to deal with some of the challenges that life throws at them. Whether it’s the prevention of youth homelessness, helping families to build stronger relationships or providing positive activities for young people with limited opportunities in life, our work brings hope, opportunity, stability and independence to the people we support.
Maxine is a Support Worker with our Youth West open access youth clubs in West Norfolk. 25 years ago, she actually attended our youth clubs in North Norfolk in the very early days of The Benjamin Foundation. Here she tells her story about how she has gone from young person to youth worker:
“In 1994, I was 13 years old when I heard about the new youth club from my best friend.” Maxine explains.
“Life as a teenager wasn’t easy. It was intense and school was tricky – but the youth club was fun and there was never any pressure. I had a fantastic relationship with Richard Draper, the founder of The Benjamin Foundation, and a lady called Hazel who helped to run the clubs with him.”
Maxine has fond memories of Richard, Hazel and plenty of trips and activities, which included roller skating, drama workshops and even a visit to Alton Towers and, after some struggles with her own mental health in her teens, she really began to appreciate all that the youth club offered her.
“I started to understand how important it was to talk to people and spend time in a different environment with people other than family – people who could also help to guide me. I have amazing memories from the youth club and, I didn’t know it at the time, but I think it was my days there that made me realise that I eventually wanted to work with young people myself.”
Maxine continues: “As I grew up, my mental health settled, I got married (I actually first met my husband at youth club!) but I still knew that I wanted to get into youth work. I followed The Benjamin Foundation on social media and last year I saw there was a job vacancy for a Youth Support Worker in my area.”
Also working as a Teaching Assistant, initially Maxine wondered whether she should apply but after some consideration she concluded that it was meant to be.
“I realised that it was my opportunity to give back.” She says. “I actually sent Richard Draper a message to let him know, as it was partly down to him that I was applying.”
Maxine now sees first-hand the pressures that young people today face.
“It’s a different world now.” She explains. “With the internet, social media and everything that comes with it, there’s a lot of pressure to be a certain way. We’re influenced so much by the world of social media and it can be sad and amazing at the same time.”
Inspired by her own time being supported The Benjamin Foundation 25 years ago, Maxine says she aims to bring a healthy balance to the youth club she now helps to run.
“It’s often a challenge to entice young people away from their phones and other devices but we’ve had sessions which include cooking, scrabble, yoga, street dance, and drama – activities which young people may not choose but it’s an opportunity to try them and it’s great to see them get involved.”
Maxine continues, “We’ve had young people, who have struggled to fit in at school, really embrace the youth club and it’s lovely to see – that’s why we do it. Just seeing the difference in young people is amazing.”
“I can’t believe it’s been 25 years since I attended youth club. The Benjamin Foundation impacts the lives of so many people – it’s an amazing charity and a huge inspiration. I feel really lucky to now be in the position to give back for the help I received.”
To learn more about Youth West, please visit https://benjaminfoundation.co.uk/service/youth-west/
If you’ve been inspired to join our 25th anniversary celebrations, please visit https://benjaminfoundation.co.uk/25th-anniversary/
It’s an eye-opening experience – I can’t imagine having to do this day in, day out. The best thing is seeing so many people taking part.