YOUNG women are being given the chance to improve their lives in one of the most deprived areas of South Tyneside.
A new charity has been launched by two former youth workers in an effort to steer girls as young as 11 away from drink, drugs and anti-social behaviour.
Bright Futures has been operating on a part-time basis for almost a year, but is now a full-time project.
Co-founder Helen Bowman said: “Bright Futures works with young women aged 11 to 25 to give them better prospects by raising their self-esteem and confidence about a range of issues which affect them.
“This includes alcohol and substance misuse, sexual health and relationships, homelessness, family relationships, friendships, school, education, training, crime and anti-social behaviour.”
She added: “We provide a range of innovative work with young women within their communities, in order to give them safe and interesting things to do on evenings and at weekends.”
Bright Futures is based at the Community Hub in John Williamson Street, South Shields, and focuses on the Rekendyke area.
Miss Bowman and her colleague, Nicola Common, have been out and about at evenings and weekends to speak to young girls at risk of alcohol misuse and anti-social behaviour, particularly around Chichester Metro station.
She added: “We use a range of detached and outreach work in geographical areas identified as hotspots for alcohol misuse and anti-social behaviour.
“We engage young women in a range of educational, volunteering and social activities, giving them safe places to go and things to do, ensuring they have opportunities to make a positive contribution within their communities.
“We engage with those young women who would not usually access mainstream youth provision and are often deemed the ‘hardest to reach’ within society.”
Bright Futures has been accredited by the Open College Network to run courses for the women it works with, and the wider community.
These include vocational qualifications and qualifications that can increase the health and well-being of young women.
A healthier lifestyle is also promoted with sessions covering basic life skills, such as cooking on a budget, and sports and fitness.
Young women are also given advice on contraception and quitting smoking.
Miss Bowman said: “Nicola and I have always been interested in young women’s work, and have done it for a number of years previously. We got a management committee together and became a registered charity, and are now applying for funding.
“We have initially targeted our work in the Rekendyke area, but our constitution covers the whole of South Tyneside.”
For more information, call 07789 990 711 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.