Since joining LandAid earlier this month, I’d been looking forward to my first visit to a project we’re helping to fund. I couldn’t wait to see the concrete impact LandAid’s grants were having on young people’s lives.
I’m not sure I could have attended a better first visit than XLP in Greenwich.
XLP – which stands for The eXcel Project’ – helps young people growing up on deprived inner-city estates, who are struggling daily with issues such as family breakdown, poverty, unemployment and educational failure. They help young people, who are living in areas with high levels of anti-social behaviour, criminality and gang behaviour, to create positive futures. Through helping them to form positive, consistent relationships they help to restore the young people they support’s trust in people. Helping them to realise that things can change, and that by setting positive goals and working hard, they can achieve great things.
For the second year running, LandAid is funding their mentoring scheme in Greenwich. The scheme matches young people with a trained mentor who encourages them to make positive choices. It focuses on ensuring that young people ages 11-18 stay in education, aren’t involved in gang culture or anti-social behaviour, and work hard to achieve the goals they set.
Mark Jenkins, the XL Mentoring Project Manager in Greenwich, told us about the ins and the outs of XLP’s history and plans for the future, sharing some fantastic stories about the work they’ve done. One of the best of these was about how they retooled a double decker bus, kitting it out with a full recording studio, and toured it around council estates in London, allowing young people to record their own tracks and take them away on USB sticks.
After Mark had explained more about the project, we met some of the mentors and mentees in the Greenwich area, playing games with them and finding out more about their experience of the project. They told us about how much they loved a recent Center Parcs trip they were taken on, and one mentee explained how she’d just come back from a five-day sail around the north of Scotland – impressive stuff!
But my favourite thing about the XLP visit was getting to see, first-hand, the relationship the mentors had with their mentees – there was so much obvious, genuine care and compassion from both ends of the relationship that it really brought home for me how much these young people were getting out of the mentoring scheme.
The benefit isn’t just in the help they get with education or their behaviour – although that’s certainly a great part of it: to me, the biggest benefit seemed to be how the mentors gave their mentees someone who was on their team, someone who cared about them and their development as a person, someone who wanted them to succeed. And that’s not something I guess many of them were too used to having, based on some of Mark’s stories about the young people XLP has helped.
There was so much more to XLP than just mentoring, too, which was clear to see – the bus scheme, the trips they go on, the general positive atmosphere the XLP project is giving to young people in London boroughs – I was blown away by it all.
Read more about XLP and our £85,000 grant here to see the impact LandAid is having in helping to develop people, as well as properties.