Charity gives offenders chance to learn skills

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AN ORGANISATION that offers support to young people going through difficult times is enjoying success in Bury St Edmunds.

Catch 22 is a national charity that offers a range of services, including mentoring, which aims to help young people achieve in areas such as education, help to those living independently after care and reparation, which involves taking them out into the community as part of a court order.

The YMCA, in the Butter Market, Bury, is one of a few places in Suffolk offering work placements to the charity, giving troubled youngsters the chance to develop important life skills.

One young offender, who cannot be named for legal reasons, described why her time at the YMCA had been so valuable.

“I go to college on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings then work all the rest of the week, except Sundays, so I can’t get into any trouble – I think it’s good for me, I love it and I love the people,” she said.

Despite completing the hours she was required to by the courts, the teen decided to continue working at the YMCA.

She said: “I was sorting, steaming, tagging and hanging all in my first day. It was hard at first but after a while I got the hang of it and I enjoyed it so much I wanted to keep going.”

Sharon Cooke, YMCA shop manager, said: “I started off on community service myself, then stayed on as a volunteer and went on to become a manager so I know exactly how these young people feel – I don’t think we should look down on them, everybody should be given a second chance.”

She added: “I think it helps them out because obviously they’ve got problems in their life and if they feel they’re wanted or needed somewhere, it picks them up a little bit.”

Bury based volunteer Louise Barnett is on hand 24 hours a day and is often used as a bridge between the youngsters and their families, as well as social workers, teachers and other professionals.

“I was a bit naughty when I was younger so I get on well with the teenagers, I’m on the same wave length as them,” she said, adding: “I get a buzz out of watching them change because I want to get them on the right path.”

Jane Thickett, reparations officer for Catch 22, said: “The benefits of volunteering is something that’s passed on – they get so much out of it but they are able to give so much back.”

To find out more about volunteering with the charity, visit www.catch-22.org.uk