1625 Independent People is a charity helping young people to ‘reboot’ their lives, gaining skills and experience in housing, education and jobs, as well as building confidence and having fun.

As well as providing specialist services in housing and support, the charity also runs a series of projects from planning and organising personal development activities like outdoor pursuits, sports, and city bike tours, to formal consultations and scrutiny and development groups to help young people re-engage in education, employment and training.

Hugh Kirby, a second year Geography student, got involved as a volunteer to run the football team, helping people of a similar age. He started leading sessions and could see the positive impact on these vulnerable young people.

Hugh said: “We try to make the sports sessions as positive as possible. With the support of Robbie Fox at the University of Bristol and Tom Dunn and Duane MacDonald at the charity, I feel that there is no obstacle that this project cannot overcome. ”

The project aims to enable the young people to have a good time, whilst practising teamwork, communication and leadership, which can be transferable to their everyday lives. Volunteers work with the team to develop these key skills, and to get as many young people involved as possible; around 20 now attend each week.

Hugh now mentors two young people, as well as others from the charity who enroll on the University’s Sports Leadership Course. He has gained confidence in leadership and a real satisfaction from helping such brilliant young people.

He added: “I feel I have grown a lot as a person. I am more confident in my approach to new situations and new people, and am much more responsive to change and when things don’t quite go to plan.

“But more importantly, I feel I have really made a positive impact on the lives of the young people involved in the project, which is incredibly rewarding. I am greeted with smiles, handshakes and high-fives by the young people when I attend sessions, and have built some great relationships with them.”

Thomas Dunn, Deputy Participation and Volunteer Manager at 1625, said: “The sports project has created a platform for peer relationships to form between two different communities within the city. This unique experience has enabled learning and personal development for both student and young person.

“Whilst vulnerable youth in the city have enjoyed experiencing regular games, meeting new people, routine, access to university facilities, competition, coaching and courses, the students have been able to build positive relationships with a diverse range of people who are experiencing difficulty in their lives by supporting and encouraging them to achieve and improve their situations. We have seen some great results! Thank you Hugh and Robbie for your hard work!”

If you’re a student interested in volunteering with 1625 Independent People, contact their Volunteer Coordinator Rachel Lawrence, or visit their website.

Volunteer Hugh Kirby