FOND childhood memories are key to anyone’s development and wellbeing and happy recollections of their early years are exactly what volunteers have set out to offer youngsters in need in Swindon.
The Memory Makers project has now launched and is aimed at helping children with difficult family backgrounds.
As part of the pilot run by youth charity Swindon Mentoring And Self Help, three children between the ages of 10 and 12 have been paired with a volunteer ‘memory maker’.
Together they go on a fun outing for a couple of hours each week and enjoy a simple but meaningful activity like going to the park, or a shopping centre – something the child would not normally have the opportunity to do.
The initiative is the brainchild of Lyn Hartman at SMASH, an organisation which provides youth mentoring for teenagers experiencing difficulties and hoping to change their lives.
“For whatever reason these children’s lives are full of traumatic or bad memories and we want to try and protect them and balance the bad memories out with lots of good ones,” said Lyn.
“Memories are like jewels. When you are having a bad day happy memories make you feel better about yourself.
“This is about children having a chance to go out with a trusted and safe adult once a week and getting their undivided attention.
“The children are referred to us by schools maybe because of a parental illness, a relative has a disability, there has been a bereavement, or there are problems in the family, and there just isn’t anybody there to give them that attention.”
She added: “Once we have got this up and running in Swindon and we feel confident we want to spread it around the country. We really want other charities to run a Memory Makers programme.”
‘We are the best of friends’
The one-on-one attention and bonding experience has proved extremely valuable both for child and memory maker.
Lucy, 23, was recently matched with 11-year-old Michelle. So far the pair have met three times and already Michelle has found a confidante and friend in her memory maker.
“It’s added something to my life,” said Michelle.“My parents are busy with my sister so I look forward to seeing Lucy every week – I just can’t wait. She is a friend. We do things that I don’t have the money to do.”
Lucy added: “I’m trying to help Michelle and give her experiences she might not be able to get herself. She is such a lovely girl. When I tell her where we are going, or what we are going to be doing her face lights up, she is so excited.
“I think it’s so important to give children happy memories. Michelle will be starting secondary school next year. This is a scary time for children and this could determine whether she goes one way or the other.”
To find out more about Memory Makers or volunteer call programme coordinator Clare Armagan on 01793 729748, email email@example.com, or visit www.smashyouthproject.co.uk.