"At the Breathe Project, we are all about building a community with everyone involved; young and old, & we strive to deliver both professional youth work and youth ministry. We aim to provide an environment that is safe, nurturing and loving; this is a constant throughout all our work and allow us to build meaningful relationships."

During lockdown, the Breathe project had to think about how to move the “Breathe family” online and stay connected with young people. They devised an online programme which was a mix of drop ins, games, committees, and one-to-one support. They also had Netflix nights where everyone watched films together. 60-90 young people engaged with the project during that period – some sessions had 5 young people at them, others 25.

What they did

As soon as it was possible, they began more face-to-face outdoor activities. Breathe has very successfully developed a Saturday “Walk and Talk” programme in Aberfeldy where young people and youth workers walk in the local area and have conversations. Simple, but effective!

They also decided to build on their experience of outreach youth work (Breathe works with young people across Highland Perthshire) and provide outdoor youth drop-ins.

Making it happen

To deliver the youth drop-in sessions the Breathe team put together a “pop-up drop-in kit” consisting of a small marquee, inflatable furniture, carpets, plants etc.– everything you would have in your youth centre. They wanted to create a “lounge feel” so young people would feel welcome – not a cold, draughty marquee.

The kit is all flat packed and can be popped up in 22 minutes – that is the record! 99% of the items in the marquee are battery operated, so a power supply is not needed.

Breathe has recently bought a van so it is easy to transport the kit, but before that they were able to take everything in a car.

To be able to run the drop-in sessions they needed to risk assess the activity and think about before, during and after in terms of Covid-19.

It is not enough to risk assess the “pop-up drop in kit” they also had to risk assess the sites they are taking it to. For example, in one place they had to say “no ball games” due to the proximity of the road, but in most places football is okay.

Things to consider

Challenges of doing it outside

There was no way to provide a “pop up toilet” so Breathe need to let everyone know that there are no toilet facilities, so participants can take that into consideration before they decide to attend.

Over the summer the sides of the marquees were opened to have more space and ventilation. It is now getting too cold to do that and they also began to use gas heaters. This means the team will use the kit less until February/March time.

The cleaning/maintaining and transporting all the kit have been a bit of an issue at times too.

Benefits of doing it outside

Breathe have been doing outreach youth work for a long time, but Covid-19 brought a new dimension to the work.

The pop-up kit gave the youth workers the ability to engage with young people where they are – not just mentally, but also physically in their own place.

It was freeing to not be dependent on the centre being accessible. It is something that they will continue to use in the future, even after Covid-19.

Costs & funding

The whole kit including the van and staff costs cost £20,000. Without the van the costs were approximately £5000. Breathe got funding from #shiftthepower Corra Foundation, Foundation Scotland, and The Robertson Trust with match funding from Aberfeldy Parish Church to buy the kit and van.

Top Tips

  • Think about how you can create a home from home and take the atmosphere from your youth centre outside.
  • Ask young people. This project was led by a couple of young people who had the idea, came up with a plan and presented it to the team who took it forward from there.
  • Risk assess and think about the sites you are taking the drop-in kit to as well as the activities.
  • Make sure you give a good welcome. “Our young people missed their “Breathe family” more than anything, so we made sure we greeted them outside the marquee without wearing masks, which we wore inside the marquee”

Who can help?

Youth Link ScotlandWorking with the Youth Work COVID-19 Recovery Group Youth Link Scotland continue to keep the sector up to date on guidance from Scottish Government.

Youth Scotland - To complement the official guidance Youth Scotland has produced a practical Action Plan, Risk Assessment template and Risk Assessment Example for groups to work through. They have also put together a set of Covid-19 safety posters and an example building plan for groups to use.

Visit the Breathe Youth Project website