COVID has presented many challenges for our country and the world, from a local perspective, things have been tough with greater restrictions and lockdowns.
From the 23rd March when the BYZ doors closed to thousands of young people, Blackburn Youth Zone (BYZ) had to adapt their services as the young people and their families needed BYZ, now more than ever.
Despite the major challenges, a pandemic didn’t stop the BYZ Team, Volunteers and Supporters all pulling together to ensure no one was left without basic necessities. During unprecedented times, the irony of COVID is a hugely increased demand for services.
Throughout the pandemic, BYZ have worked interminably towards supporting the priorities of Blackburn with Darwen Adolescents Strategy. During the crisis BYZ volunteers cooked 8520 healthy wholesome meals and worked collaboratively with partners to support the distribution of 21,016 meals to members of the community, leaving no one to go hungry.
As a team BYZ reached the most vulnerable by providing 2,476 welfare calls to their most vulnerable young people, tackling social isolation and ensuring they were not lonely and their needs were being met.
BYZ also worked with 903 young people through virtual youth support and over 115 young people have benefited from a range of different employability opportunities providing them with vital skills and techniques, ensuring that they continue to raise the aspirations and skill of the young people of the borough.
BYZ members Abigail & Rebecca’s Mother, Lydia said: “BYZ has really supported us as a family during lockdown with the food, activity packs and online digital zoom calls, my children look forward to it every day.
“It occupies them and makes them busy whilst they learn new skills, otherwise I know they would struggle during this difficult time. It is so nice and I am so grateful for the support they have given me, thank you so much to everyone who has made this difficult time, a lot easier.”
BYZ also ensured that the community was integrated and was proud to bring the community together during Ramadan. They hosted an online Community Iftar (the first of its kind in Blackburn with Darwen) breaking fast with over 70 members and their families to celebrate cohesion and social integration.
The initiative was supported by BwD Social Integration team and up to 30 volunteers from BYZ’s patron network including BAE Systems, Canopies UK, Granby Marketing, Graham & Brown, and PM+M.
Hannah Allen CEO of Blackburn Youth Zone said: “COVID has presented the borough with a lot of challenges, but what is more important is to see how we rise above the challenge and come together as a community – at such difficult times.
“I am extremely proud to be leading an organisation where the team, volunteers, supporters, patrons and partners come together to reach vulnerable young people and families all over the community. It has really highlighted how important BYZ service is, even when the doors are closed.
“Now that the doors have reopened following government guidance, we have learnt a lot from the challenges we have faced and we will continue to incorporate services that have worked throughout lockdown, such as our online digital zoom sessions. Blackburn with Darwen motto is ‘By Skill and Hard Work’ and the BYZ community certainly lived to this matra during the pandemic.”