Effective provision to children and young people has to be
stimulating and fun if they are to be involved with it. But the
difficulties in providing services that are enjoyable to children
in rural areas differ from those found in large towns and
First, the service must be near to overcome the lack of
transport common outside large urban areas. Second, the scale of
any provision has to be small to match the size of village
populations. And third, the organisers need to be local, and
knowledgeable about the lives of children in rural areas as well as
having an immediate investment in the success of any project based
in their own community.
The Children’s Fund’s overall objective is to make a
real difference to children and families at risk of social
exclusion. Its focus is on children aged between five and 13.
The beauty of the Children’s Fund is that it tailors its
resources to the circumstances of each region, with the
understanding that what works in London for example may not work so
well in Land’s End.
The rural East Riding of Yorkshire is a region characterised by
small market towns and large expanses of countryside dotted with
isolated villages, some with a small primary school, church and
shop, some without school and shop, and with part-time pastoral
provision. Missing a bus – if there is one – can mean being
stranded; and an in most cases any public transport ceases to
function after 6pm.
Like all the Children’s Fund’s projects nationally,
the East Riding Children’s Fund receives proposals from
voluntary and community groups of all kinds. The sums involved are
often small, reflecting the cost of hiring rooms, buying basic
equipment and paying volunteers to supervise activities and so on.
Or, where schools are involved, recruiting enthusiastic, highly
skilled people to bring their expertise to children whose
experience is often very limited in scope and by geography.
The children and adults involved in the village projects and
school-based activities are regularly asked for their opinions. It
may be a reflection on the scarcity of provision for the five to 13
in rural areas that the children express unmitigated enthusiasm:
“brilliant” and “cool!” being the terms used to describe their
experience, whether about African drumming or an evening playing
games at the village club. Adults also told us they enjoyed being
involved as they see their children gaining from their new
In one village, parents also say that having a youth club in the
village has meant that they made friends, which is particularly
important for newcomers. Asked what they did before the project was
set up, children typically mention “fighting with my brother”, “on
my playstation”, “hanging about”.
The potential for diversity within the Children’s
Fund’s framework is a strength. Public money, enthusiastic
community and individual involvement, a variety of local statutory
and voluntary organisations working together, plus careful
monitoring lead to a success story of creative projects. In the
countryside, small is beautiful.
– The authors have recently undertaken an evaluation of the East
Riding’s Children’s Fund rural projects. To obtain a
copy, please e-mail Tim Nelson at email@example.com
Children’s diversity – Mexico and
Urban schools have more ready access to cultural diversity than
rural ones, so this project is a novelty for the East Riding.
Mexico was a theme for a “day trip” to children with special needs,
some of them severely disabled, in a school based in a small town
and drawing children from the surrounding area. Mexico theme is
organised and run by two local organisers and a South American
facilitator. The school kitchen is also involved, producing a
A pavilion erected in the hall is filled with brightly coloured
costumes, masks, and toy skeletons of all sizes, musical
instruments and with Mexican music playing. The topic of the event
is the Day of the Dead – despite its name, it is a big, joyous
festival where everyone takes food to their ancestors’
graves, and there are special games and treats for the
All the children in the class dress up. There was dancing,
including wheelchair dancing. Every child is given the opportunity
to handle the artefacts, one child without sight used his fingers
to “read” the object.
Zimbabwe was brought to a small village school with the help of
two Zimbabwean facilitators, J and M, both teacher-trained. The
children are greeted in Ndebele, and they learn about a
child’s life in an African village. There are bowls and
cooking artefacts on display, and the children discuss what
materials they are made from and how they are used. Each session
ends with a drumming lesson.
J demonstrated a rhythm which the children were eager to try. M
sang in Ndebele, explaining what the words meant. The sessions end
with the class saying “goodbye” in Ndebele.
Young People’s Project
Jam Gang, God’s Groovy Gang, Cool and Chill, Cool and
These are the names chosen by the children and young people for
their groups that meet in the village church four nights a week.
They are supervised by local volunteers. This is probably the
largest youth group in the East Riding sponsored by the
The villagers have renovated and decorated the rooms, including
the kitchen, and an outside area for use in good weather. There is
a large activity room, and a quiet room for chatting. The ethos is
one of self-expression: activities have included dressing-up,
making a plaster dragon, board games, football, cards, eating, and
an actor-led drama session.
Young People’s Focus Group
This project works on a one-to-one basis with young people who
have experienced social or educational trauma. The group helps
compensate for the young people’s lack of opportunities and
to give them the social skills they need for independence. They are
also trained in taking part in the process of interviewing and
selecting staff to work locally with children and young people.
The Emotional Literacy Project
This project works with four infant and junior schools. After
assessments, children lacking in confidence were identified and
offered twice-weekly group sessions.
Examples of negative and positive words help children identify
how they feel. Each child also has a personal target such as “more
eye contact”, “more smiles”, “keep on task”. Targets are checked at
the end of the session, with an emphasis on encouragement and
The feedback from pupils, parents and teachers is good. Children
who rarely talked now speak and make contact with each other. An
autistic boy whispers “hello”. Spin-offs include better school
work, improved speaking and listening skills and rise in school