Snap Development Project: improving young people’s mental health through Challenge Clubs

How a Derbyshire after-school club gives tweens and teens a space to talk, build skills and have some all-important fun

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Board games, arts and crafts and the chance to cook a tasty lasagne from scratch are just a few of the activities on offer after school at Snap Youth Club. 

Mandy Mangold, who runs the scheme, delivers the after school Challenge Club for local tweens and teens in South Normanton and Pinxton, Derbyshire.

“We started the project in 2004, developing and delivering programmes that meet the needs of young people, with lots of games, arts and crafts and quizzes,” says Mandy.

“The activities are tailored to them, whether they want to learn about healthy eating, or they’re struggling with relationships. It’s fun, with social education at the heart.”

Mandy, who has her ear to the ground in the local community, noticed that the transition from primary to secondary school was often a tricky time for young people as they balance their new-found independence with staying safe. 

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And thanks to funds raised through The Health Lottery, Mandy was able to launch Challenge Club last September, which welcomes a mix of older primary school children with those who’ve made the move to secondary.

For ten-year-old Tia Crouchsmith, Challenge Club gives her a much-needed bit of me-time. With four siblings at home, including a seven-month-old sister, she enjoys the after-school club as well as trips in the school holidays. 

“I live in a very busy house and I help out with my baby sister, so going on trips to Chatsworth for a walk and a picnic or the local café are great,” she says.

“Coming into Challenge Club, I’ve learned new things and I think I’m getting more confident talking to people I don’t know.” 

Maisie Hodkin, who’s twelve, is already at secondary school and loves the atmosphere at the club. “We feel like a family because we always have someone to talk to,” she says.

“Every Tuesday we do a tea break where we talk about ourselves and I’ve got more confident at that, so when I go to school I find it easier to stand up in front of the class and read out what I’ve written.” 

“Challenge Club offers something different from their schools’ clubs, which might be sports or chess. 

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"The group has bags of energy and they can be quite challenging. Hormones are kicking about at this age, so we’re focusing on listening skills that allow them to complete a task. 

“We have a very different relationship with them to their teachers and we never tell them what to do. Youth work is all about voluntary engagement of young people, helping them to learn about themselves and their community so they can make informed choices.

“Some young people have additional needs, but once we get to know them we talk about their interests and find out how to support them. 

One girl is really into gaming online, so she was telling us about that and we were able to talk about the dangers. Then her friends could ask questions like: ‘How do you know that’s not a man you’re talking to?’ and that’s where peer training comes in.

“Another lad was very quiet and he’s just started asking questions and chatting more. Over time, we learned that he has issues with eating, so when we were making a healthy sandwich he just froze and couldn’t talk or engage. Once he talked about it, we could ask his teachers about what support he needs.” 

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It’s clear the support is so valuable for younger members of the local community, but what Mandy and her team do wouldn’t be possible without funding raised through The Health Lottery. 

“At Christmas, we gave out hampers for people to cook meals for four people for two days. We were handing it over to one family and they opened the fridge door and in that fridge on 22 December was a small carton of milk and a pot of jam,” says Mandy. 

“Buying a ticket for The Health Lottery, you don’t realise the difference it’s going to make to young people here. That is a massive one pound you’ve spent there and we can double it and treble it with our efforts to make a difference to young people in need.”

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The current society benefitting from funds raised is EWA Health CIC T/A HL Wales

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