In December 2013, floods tore through the Somerset Levels, leaving residents in villages and towns cut off from normal services and support networks.
For three months, the village of Othery was cut off from nearby towns. Main roads were closed, public transport was severely disrupted and young people were no longer able to get out, see friends, and take part in their normal activities. Although the local secondary school is only five miles away – normally a ten minute car ride - after the flooding the main road to the school was closed for long periods of time whilst flood protection work was undertaken. The journey to school became a 24 mile, 50 minute round trip. Young people were no longer able to take part in any after school clubs because the long journey became too costly to undertake several times a day and their parents were unable to collect them. Young people in the village were unable to see family and friends and prevented from continuing their involvement in positive activities.
Local residents of the village applied to the Somerset Emergency Flood Fund for a contribution towards setting up and running the local youth club. The aim of the group is to encourage the children’s feeling of belonging to the wider community and, thanks to a grant from Somerset Community Foundation, the group was able to run fortnightly over this difficult period. The group provides children and young people with a social focal point, vital in the time during and following the floods. As a result of our grant, 20 young people from the village were able to meet their friends and engage in fun activities in a safe environment but within the confines of the village.
“[Young people] have come to rely on the club as a way of maintaining social contact with their friends and to replace the extra curricular activities they previously had access to at school.”
One unexpected and positive outcome of the grant was the strengthening of relationships in the village.
“Relationships have formed that cross generational boundaries with the [Volunteer] Youth Leaders forming friendships with the children.”
The club’s activities are going from strength to strength. In the future, the group leaders hope to organise more of the popular project days and secure the services of an expert external organisation for specific activities.