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Earlier this month we popped down to Colchester to visit Changing Lives. Changing Lives is a non-profit, community interest company that uses sport, social experiences, mentoring and work experience to install confidence in young people and give them opportunities and options to work towards a more positive future.

Originally based at Harlow, Changing Lives expanded in summer 2022 to include a base at Colchester which now runs both community sessions and more targeted interventions to support young people.

The VVU is currently supporting Changing Lives by providing funding to its young offender’s sports and life skills programme. This programme runs on a Monday evening with up to ten young people who have a court order. Referrals come into the project from the Youth Offending Service.

Changing Lives then work with the young people over 12 weeks on things like choices and consequences and challenging perceptions. Each young person is provided with mentoring to probe into their hopes and ambitions and then they are supported to achieve this through routes back into education or by working towards gaining qualifications or skills.

The project teaches the young people to believe in themselves and to find a positive way out of their offending behaviour. All the young people participate in sport – there is a gym, football and boxing equipment on site – which adds to improved mental health, wellbeing and fitness.

The ethos of Changing Lives is to reduce crime, improve mental health and promote wellbeing. Continuous assessment on aspects such as self-esteem, teamwork and mental health show whether the young people are responding to the interventions and mean they can be tailored appropriately.

The project notes the change in the young people as the weeks progress, from being closed and shut down to wanting to participate, get involved and share ideas; building their confidence so they feel able to make positive changes and step away from risky behaviour.

All thanks to the great work of Changing Lives and their belief in young people.