Before the Bell Tower was pioneered, there had been a number of government funded youth centres in the city, which were forced to close due to the cutbacks to the statutory youth services. This left a huge gap in generic after school youth provision in Chichester. After extensive reasearch carried out in local schools during 2013, the Bell Tower was launched in order to meet this need.
The project is an independent charity funded entirely by local grant givers and individual donors. It is also supported in other ways by various organisations and local churches, including Immanuel Church, Revelation Church, St Pancras, Swanfield Chapel, the University of Chichester and the Chichester Cathedral.
Since launching, we have endeavoured to extend the impact of our work. To find out more, feel free to read up on some of last year’s key statistics and headlines which can be found by scrolling down.
– Sam Harding
The Bell Tower Youth Drop-In Centre opened in late 2014 and continues to succeed in achieving the original purpose of providing a safe place in the city for local young people, while continuing to grow and develop in a number of new areas. One of the main objectives of the first two years of operation has been to make the project sustainable for the years to come. We have now achieved this greater stability through successful fundraising, community support and new partnerships and look to extend the impact and accessibility of the service we provide.
Each young person we encounter have their own specific needs and challenges. Our commitment is to recognize each individual, make a connection with them and be there to support them, be it through long term relationship building and encouragement, or working to directly shape them through engagement in our more focused initiatives.
This review offers an insight into all areas of the operation, key statistics, finance, and projected operating costs, along with a number of exciting new initiatives.
“I’ve been involved at the Bell Tower since the very beginning when I was interning with Rachel Wheeler who initiated the launch of the project.
I'm giving my afternoons to the Bell Tower because I really believe in this project. I love teenagers and I believe they can make something of themselves if someone simply believes in them. The Bell Tower is a safe place, and for this reason I feel it makes a difference, as many young people do not have such a place where they feel they can belong and relax. Since I’ve been volunteering as a team leader, I’ve seen so many different children coming in, and can say that most of them clearly have very significant needs. I’m very happy that they attend the Bell Tower, as I don’t know where else they would go if we weren’t open. I’ve seen such a huge change, particularly in the young people who have attended from the beginning. Some used to be less well behaved but now with support and direction, are behaving with a more positive approach and treat each other and the volunteers with respect and consideration. I’m very honoured to be a part of this amazing project and help make a difference in the lives of the young people who attend.”
I've been involved with the Bell Tower since the beginning, when Rachel Wheeler who launched the project invited me to join the team. It was great to have Rachel’s charisma and passion to help get the project off the ground and since Sam took over, resourcing the project and securing longer-term sustainability became the focus. The project seems to have achieved this stability not only financially but also through local support and volunteers. However, we are always on the look out for more to join the team! It’s always hard to predict how many young people will join us for an afternoon, though recently numbers have soared with 20 to 30 young people coming through the doors each afternoon.
Young people will often come and go multiple times during an afternoon session, but we are pleased to provide somewhere safe and familiar for them to relax for as long as they need be it 10 minutes or an entire afternoon. No two sessions are alike at the Bell Tower. We have had difficult afternoons, with some destructive behaviour, followed by more rewarding sessions when young people open up about their lives and struggles and can receive support.
I first heard about the Bell Tower project through the Cathedral community committee of which I am a member. I have always thought that this is an important project and when I heard that volunteers were needed I contacted Sam and came along for a taster session. I have now been involved at the Bell Tower for nearly two years. I think that the Bell Tower Drop-in is a valuable resource as it allows the churches to provide a much needed service to the young people of this city where youth services provided by the local authority have been drastically cut in recent years. It provides a safe place for secondary school pupils to go after school and I have seen the number of young people using the Bell Tower grow in my time as a volunteer.
I enjoy working with young people and I hope that I will be able to increase my time commitment as a volunteer later this year. I look forward to being involved in the continuing development of this project as I believe that we have a valuable resource that can enable us to increase our outreach work to the young people in our city.
Our relationship with local schools has been crucial in allowing us to create an effective support system for young people. Over the last year we have continued to work with secondary schools.
Our work capacity has increased over the last year, meaning this year we have been able to launch “Lunch Club” – a bi-weekly drop-in service to the Chichester High School, to engage with young people at lunch times. Lunch Club allows us to strengthen relationship’s with teachers and pupils, as well as meet new school children who may not have heard of our work. Providing a more consistent presence in school also allows teachers to refer certain young people to us who may be struggling relationally in school and in need of further support.
Following a successful pilot period at the Chichester High School, we are aiming to attend other local schools on a weekly basis by the end of 2017.
In May 2016, the Right Worshipful Mayor of Chichester, Councilor Peter Budge, chose the Bell Tower Drop-in and the Chichester Boys Club to be “The Mayor’s Charities of the Year” for his second term in office. This has resulted in a number of fundraising and promotional events being held under the care and support of the Mayor and his staff. Being the Mayor’s charity has helped us boost the profile of the Bell Tower and awareness in the city, while raising considerable funds for the project. These events have included street collections, charity auctions and themed receptions with the Mayor. During the two-year term of being Mayor’s Charity we were able to raise a significantly large part of our annual operating costs and are so grateful to Peter and his team for this valuable support.
This funding stream is not anticipated to be available to the Bell Tower Drop-in moving forwards, and so must be replaced by new sources of funding.
We have had a fantastic team of volunteers from different groups in the community. This year our team has been made up of people from the following areas:
We are always looking to recruit new enthusiastic team members to accommodate the growth of the Bell Tower. This year we have focused recruitment through local church news bulletins, college and university websites/fresher’s fairs, presentations in different community forums and online via volunteer agencies. Most volunteers join us once a week, and all receive free DBS checks and safeguarding training.
If you would like to get involved and join our diverse team of volunteers, you can contact our team to find out more information on firstname.lastname@example.org.
In October 2016 we launched a new initiative called “The Young Leaders Programme.” An eight month long accredited course, where certain young people who regularly attend the Drop-in, can join the volunteer team for one day each week, taking on a number of day-to-day responsibilities within the Bell Tower.
We are extremely grateful to Dexam Kitchen Supply Ltd for funding through the Sussex Community Foundation to upgrade our ageing heating system to a renewable energy source. The Bell Tower now has an air source heat pump air conditioning unit, which heats the Drop-in five times more effectively, while using a fraction of the electricity previously needed!
We have been able to meet all of our costs this year due to the generosity of individuals in the local community, churches, the University of Chichester, and grant making trusts.
Fundraising is an on-going task, crucial to our long-term substainability and with new initiatives and increasing capacity, funding targets for the year have also increased.
The Bell Tower now costs approximately £18,000 per year to run.
Due to the fact that the Bell Tower has been successful in achieving long-term sustainability since launching in 2014, we now look to the future to develop new and exciting ideas and initiatives in an attempt to make a greater lasting impact in the lives of individual young people.
Thanks to the support from our local partnerships, including the Chichester Cathedral, University of Chichester and a number of local churches, the Bell Tower is now far more than just a growing project with an increasing number of young people attending. It has become a community hub where young people with real needs find care and support in an understanding supportive environment. The young person with learning and behavioral difficulties finds a place where they are encouraged and trusted with responsibilities in a safe environment on the Young Leaders Programme and can learn and develop skills in their own way. The individual facing an unstable and challenging home life can relax in a consistent, peaceful environment, where a listening ear is always available and their well being is protected. The young people facing increasing cultural pressures in relationships can speak freely and honestly with people who care in a non-judgmental, safe environment.
I come to the Bell Tower when I am in a bad mood or when I am not feeling myself because there is always someone here. I also come when I’m in a good mood and do feel myself because my friends and people I like are here. I feel the Bell Tower is somewhere people can discover themselves and make friends they wouldn’t normally make.
I love coming to the Bell Tower because it is a fun place where you can hang out with friends and use the free equipment. It’s so fun with Carmela (one of our volunteers) because her jokes will crack you up!
I come to the Bell Tower to hang out with friends. I love all the staff and we do loads of stuff like watch TV, play board games, chat and have fun. I am a young leader and I love it because it’s awesome!
I like coming to the Bell Tower because you can hangout with friends, do your homework and the staff are really nice! I’ve learned how to knit and love to play board games and Rummicub. It’s the best place I like to be after school. I LOVE the Bell Tower!
I love being a Young Leader because I like helping and it is fun and I like have the opportunity to serve people and take responsibilities like taking money to the shops to buy stock. My day to day job is serving refreshments from behind the snack bar and organising the making of milkshake and hot chocolate on the days we give it out free. I take the numbers on a piece of paper and then prepare cups and make the right amount for everyone. I also clean, hoover, wash up and make signs for the bell tower like behaviour rules and other notices. I have to have good manners to be a good example and be nice to the staff. If there are any issues, I am always on hand to help. Chloe.”
“I spent the first few Fridays on the programme learning how to use things like the coffee machine and learning the routine. I also used this time to become more familiar with the staff, volunteers and regular visitors to the Bell Tower. By about week four, I felt very familiar and comfortable with the work, staff and volunteers. I was also greatly enjoying my work there. I felt I was also getting to know the drop-in and how my role made a difference. A few months into my role, I was asked to devise and run a volunteering event to take place during one of the Bell Tower sessions. I chose to run a healthy eating session and we made different fruit smoothies for the young people using a big blender. I researched recipes and with the help of the team leader, it was a success. The staff were generally a great help throughout my time at the drop-in and gave clear guidance. Looking back at my time at the drop-in, I feel that I have developed several new skills. I have also enjoyed the experience and learned the value of pushing myself and of service to others which gives me great pleasure. Sam”