Looking outward – Lent 2017

There’s been lots happening across the board in the last few weeks, so here’s a summary to catch you up!

Volunteers and staff from the project were delighted to support a one-day event at CharterBig_Bang_event Academy, sponsored by Portsmouth Cathedral. God and the Big Bang brought scientists to meet secondary school students to explore all the questions and arguments around this long-standing debate.

God_one_questionYouth Chaplaincy were also invited to have a stand at Highbury College’s Diversity Fair. Staff and students were invited to consider: If you could ask God a question, what would it be?

Meanwhile, as the season of Lent began, we started doing activities around ‘doing Lent generously’ including making ‘Giving Jars’ and creating Easter Goody bags to give away to friends.

We’ve also been delighted to welcome two new volunteers to the team: Jane and Frances, who are working at The Academy (formerly Portsmouth Girls School) and Charter Academy respectively.

As we continue to move towards Easter, we’ll be looking to replant the Easter Gardens at Portsmouth and Highbury Colleges and The Academy and bring some joy and colour to the staff and students!

Bearing it in mind…

It’s been a while since we’ve had an update on here – mostly because we’ve been so busy! So for the next few post, we’re have a look back at what we’ve been up to since the start of the year…

January 2017mindfulness pebbles detail

We started the year with a series of four sessions of Mindfulness, to help students (and staff!) cope with the stress of mock exams. We explained the practice of mindfulness as the act of focussing our thoughts and attention on one thing, which has the effect of ‘turning the volume down on life’ for a while.

mindfulness flowersOver the four weeks, students had access to different natural materials including pebbles, flowers, water and bread as a way of thinking about where they were investing their energy and also where they got their support and encouragement from.

In a world which demands more and more of our attention, it is even more important to teach students how to take a step back, away from all the noise, in order to refresh themselves for the day ahead…

February 2017

During February our attention turned to love, but instead of romantic love, we were love your neighbour displaythinking about different types of love and how to love our neighbour. Students came up with lots of small and practical ways of being kind to the people around us.

While these activities were happening, volunteers at Breakfast Club at Charter Academy were helping students build their Chess skills, while those at The Academy (formerly Portsmouth Girls School) were creating ‘stained glass window’ panels for windows in the library.

Read more in our next article, about other events and projects we’ve been involved in, and don’t forget to check up on the latest news via our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/youthchaplaincy/ 


An advent message from Revd Sam


It is incredible the conversations you can have whilst cutting and sticking! Sharon (my colleague) prepared a brilliant craft activity to mark the beginning of Advent. We made Advent Lanterns, extremely simple and we have witnessed many wonderful creations.

Whilst busily cutting, drawing and sticking, questions of darkness and light were mused upon. What does it mean to ‘live in darkness’? Where does light come from in dark times? What does it mean to be religious? These questions mark a wonderful beginning to Advent.

‘Being Religious’ for me this time of year is about a way of life, where I wait, on purpose, for new things to happen. Often these things I wait for are out of my control. You may be waiting for something, exam results, hospital appointments or something else. Whatever the reason our waiting can be difficult to contend with. Advent time helps me to take time to find peace at a time of year when life gets incredibly busy. It helps me if I have a light to look at to focus my thinking and reading and my new hand made lantern is just the thing to have beside me as I write my sermons. If you are doing exam revision or writing projects you may find it comforting to do the same…

Light this time of year is so important to us. The days are getting darker and as I write to you it is also getting quite cold. But none of our waiting should be without hope, being brave and sitting still just for a small time can give us the space we need to find that hope… and maybe you will get a glimpse of the peace that I have found.

Revd Sam

Are you ready?

Ever since we started the Chaplaincy project, we’ve gone all out for Advent. It’s a great opportunity to engage with people in the build up to Christmas and while they may join in expecting Christmas cards and twinkle lights, hopefully they’ll go away with something more substantial.

One of the best (and briefest!) explanations for Advent which I like to use is an animation by Busted Halo. You can watch it below. Do feel free to share it – it’s a great reminder that if we’re sick of Christmas by Dec 25th, we haven’t been doing Advent right!

White Poppy, Red Poppy?


Friday 11th November 2016 is Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. A moment every year when we pause for two minutes to remember those from the Armed Forces who have lost their lives in conflict. But recently the red poppy has come under some scrutiny by FIFA, the football governing body, who say that footballers playing a match on Friday 11th, shouldn’t wear poppies, suggesting that perhaps it is a political or religious symbol. But what’s this all about, and where does the red poppy symbol actually come from?

Scarlet corn poppies (popaver rhoeas) grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction caused by the Napoleonic wars of the early 1800s transformed bare land into fields of red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers.

In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as World War One raged through Europe. Once the conflict was over the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the otherwise barren battlefields.

The significance of the poppy as a lasting memorial symbol to the fallen was realised by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae in his poem In Flanders Fields. The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in World War One and later conflicts. It was adopted by The Royal British Legion as the symbol for their Poppy Appeal, in aid of those serving in the British Armed Forces, after its formation in 1921. Other countries hold their own Remembrance Day, such as Anzac Day in Australia and Veterans Day in the US.

However the White Poppy was first introduced by the Women’s Co-operative Guild in 1933 and was intended as a lasting symbol for peace and an end to all wars. Worn on Armistice Day, now Remembrance Sunday, the White Poppy was produced by the Co-operative Wholesale Society because the Royal British Legion had refused to be associated with its manufacture.

While the White Poppy was never intended to offend the memory of those who died in the Great War, many veterans felt that its significance undermined their contribution and the lasting meaning of the red poppy. Such was the seriousness of this issue that some women lost their jobs in the 1930s for wearing white poppies. The White Poppy Appeal is now run by the Peace Pledge Union.

The poppy is a natural plant which grew spontaneously in an environment which had seen enormous bloodshed and turmoil. Its colour and symbolism of life after conflict has become powerfully linked with wars and with the Armed Forces. However the poppy is not just about wars which happened in the last century. The Royal British Legion continues to support veterans from all the services who may be in need. Conflicts are still happening across the globe – the map below shows just how many places (and therefore people) are living in conflict right now:

Both the red and white poppy are an acknowledgement of the sacrifices that have been made and continue to be made by those serving in the Armed Forces. Armistice Day is a timely reminder that the peace we enjoy may come at considerable cost. Whether you choose to wear a white or red poppy, be sure to take a moment to pause in your busy life and remember that whilst you may have peace, there are hundreds of thousands of people just like you, who don’t.

History of the red & white poppy: http://www.bbc.co.uk/remembrance/how/poppy.shtml


All The Right Moves!


One of our longest volunteers, David Stemp, is a keen chess enthusiast and whilst you might not believe that chess is interesting to young people – you’d be wrong!

David recently told us about an annual chess competition, in which students he’s been working with, took part:

“The Sir William Dupree and Alderman Phyllis Loe Schools Chess Tournament took place at the Portsmouth High Schools for Girls in Southsea, on Monday 4th and Tuesday 5th April. It was an all-day event covering the two days and 70 children and young people from across Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight took part.

It was an exciting challenging activity with participation by some excellent chess players from this city. I am delighted to tell you that 5 girls entered from Portsmouth Academy for Girls and 2 boys from Charter Academy.

Players had to win 3 out of 6 matches to qualify for a trophy, which was no mean feat considering the levels of skills and concentration required!”

Sarah Musson of the Academy for Girls won a trophy and cash prize, and the Principle Natalie Shepperd was very pleased and proud of the result. She explained that chess is offered and played every lunchtime. David went on to say:

“I am told by staff that the game of chess is a constant focus at both Charter Academy (during Breakfast Club) and Portsmouth Academy for Girls, and young people play most mornings/ lunchtimes. Teachers say playing chess and having some food and drink settles the students down ready to learn.”

We’re thrilled with the success of the chess clubs which David has fostered through his work with the Youth Chaplaincy project. David’s work is a great example of the flexibility of the Youth Chaplaincy model, which allows people to bring a range of different skills, knowledge and experience to benefit students and staff.

Perhaps you have some skills which you could share with local schools or colleges? Maybe you’re a Macrame master? Or a Cricket Champion? Perhaps you can bend it like Beckham or you have a virtuoso voice? Whatever your skillset, we’d love to hear from you and explore the idea of becoming a volunteer with us! Why not send Sue an email: sue.whitelock@portseaparish.co.uk 

In their own words – Paul

hand by ear listening

One of the strengths of the Youth Chaplaincy project is our team of volunteers. The diverse nature of this work means that we need all sorts of different people, with different skills and backgrounds, so that we can work most effectively with the range of adults and young people we meet across the city.

With that in mind, we thought it would be great if some of our fabulous volunteers could share their stories in their own words, about what it means to work with the Youth Chaplaincy project.

This article is the first in a series called ‘In Their Own Words’. Each article is written by a volunteer, describing their own experience of engaging with staff and students in a local setting. Perhaps when you’ve read it, you might feel inspired to become a volunteer yourself, or you might know someone who’d be really suited to this work. Don’t be shy! Drop us an email, or ring Julie in the Deanery office with your details and have an informal chat with us about what volunteering involves – we’d love to hear from you!

*** *** *** *** ***

My name is Paul and I have been involved with the project for nearly 3 years. When I began it was two separate projects – the Youth Project and FE Chaplaincy. I had not long retired from working as a Community Therapist within the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in Southampton, and was looking to fill my time utilising the skill set I had acquired over the years as a therapist.

Under the Youth project I volunteered as part of the Reading Resilience programme for years 7 and 8 at Mayfield School. I would attend the school each Monday morning at 8.10am and make my way to one of the rooms where the programme was being run. I would be there for around 30 minutes and listen to 4 or 5 pupils read to me from the books they had chosen under the programme. These books ranged from the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins to the Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinny, The Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth to Paper Towns by John Green.

As I visited the same class over a 2 year period, it was so rewarding to see the development of their reading abilities. I commented to one pupil that I had been very impressed with the improvement of her reading prowess in the time I had been with her. Her face lit up and she thanked me. She then said that this was the first time that she had received any praise of this kind.

I continued in this role until December 2015.

Alongside this I was also a volunteer with the FE Chaplaincy Project. I attended Portsmouth College where I offered my services as a counsellor on Wednesday and Thursday morning, seeing 4 students on each morning. The range of issues presented by those students range from Exam Stress to Relationship issues, Bereavement to Domestic Abuse, Depression and Anxiety to Anger, Deliberate Self-Harm to Suicidal thoughts and much more in between.

In this role I also offered Clinical Supervision to the Support Staff within the Student Support Services unit at the College.

I was also delighted to have been invited to share my views about how each of the two projects could be taken forward. I am not sure how much my views influenced the subsequent amalgamation of the two projects to form the one new project, namely the Youth Chaplaincy Project.

It was also a privilege to support the leader of the Youth Project in interviewing some of the potential volunteers for the project itself.

Under this “new” project, Mayfield School became aware of my counselling skills and in January 2016 I let go of supporting the Reading Resilience Programme and now offer counselling on a Monday morning and Wednesday afternoon, seeing 3 pupils on each of those sessions. Some of the issues presented at the school have ranged from Transgender to Self-Harm, Low mood and Anxiety to teenage pregnancy, and much more.

I also continue to offer 8 counselling sessions to Portsmouth College, and some clinical supervision to Support Staff within the Youth Chaplaincy Project.

This means that the total time I offer the Youth Chaplaincy Project amounts to at least 14 hours a week during School Terms.

In all the “work” (I have put work in inverted commas as I love what I do, and it doesn’t feel like work) there has been a lot of rewarding work alongside hearing some very distressing and difficult stories the young people have presented. There is one student who I worked with at Portsmouth College who stands out for me. She came to me presenting in a very low mood, very conscious of her body image, lacking in confidence, very little self-belief, social anxiety, and self-harming. We worked together for the best part of two years, and she is now in her third year at college. She popped in to see me a few weeks ago to say thank you for all I did for her. She hasn’t self-harmed in over 18 months, has been out for meals with groups of friends she has since made, something she never thought she could ever manage. She has a new boyfriend, a small part time job and has a guaranteed place at Bristol University to study Graphic Design. In thanking me she said that if it had not been for me she sincerely believes that she would have given up college and spent all her days under the duvet cover. She is now a very happy confident young lady who, I am pretty sure, will, in years to come, make a valuable contribution to society. It has been a joy and privilege to share a small part of her journey through her education at Portsmouth College.

I feel that the “work” I do can make such positive differences and it is so rewarding to receive the kind of feedback I had from this young lady.

See how our gardens grow!

PortsColl EGarden after 2016It was two years ago, when we first planted this small Easter garden at Portsmouth College. We intended it as a space to help students and staff have a moment of calm and peace, and this small gift continues to grow and be nurtured. The herbs flourish (some might say they’re out of control!) and each year we’ve been able to refresh the bedding plants to add some new colour and life to the space.

The following year, we planted a new garden at Highbury College – this one with wooden sleepers so as to create a raised bed. Again, as at Portsmouth College, the Estates staff have tended the garden, weeding and watering and keeping an eye on things.

HighburyColl-beforeafter 2016

We couldn’t have done this without the generous support of Morrisons at Victory Park and B&Q Fratton, who supplied us with flowers and compost this year. Jules at Morrisons went out of his way to be helpful, and Graham and his staff at B&Q were also very encouraging and supportive, so huge thanks to all in helping us bring some calm and a splash of colour to these busy college campuses!

But why stop there?!

This year we’ve added another fledgling growing space to our number, this time at Portsmouth Academy for Girls, where students and staff from the Achievement Centre got stuck in with digging, weeding and removing some of the turf, in order to create more space for planting.

The girls are hoping to add vegetables and seating to the space around their classrooms, and we’re grateful for the support of Tesco Fratton Community Champion, Gemma, who will be working alongside us to help the staff and students achieve their aims!

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The key to freedom – forgiveness


During April we’re looking at the theme of forgiveness. It follows on from Easter when we reminded ourselves of the times when Jesus himself was falsely accused, betrayed and abandoned by those closest to him and subject to torture and ridicule.

It is a sad fact that many of us share the experience of being hurt and let down by those close to us. Being hurt by someone you care about or have some relationship with is almost harder to bear than a wound caused by an enemy – you already knew that person didn’t like you so it wasn’t a surprise when they acted in that way. But being wounded by someone close to you is harder to bear.

And what if you are the one who has wounded? You’re the person who said that thing in a moment of anger; you lashed out and broke something or shared a secret that wasn’t yours to tell?

Forgiveness is a powerful tool to release not just ourselves, but others too.

Some might say that forgiveness has to be earnt – you need to know that the person who wronged you was sorry and there are certainly times when healing can come from restitution.

But sometimes restoration and healing won’t come by that route, either because the person doesn’t see that what they did was wrong, or maybe it was a collection of people or circumstances which led to the outcome which wounded you? In this kind of circumstance, forgiveness is the key you need to allow yourself to heal and move on.

There are lots of interesting sayings and quotes about forgiveness out there on the internet, but this one resonates with me at the moment:

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” Ghandi

This month we’re trying to encourage students and staff to explore this theme of forgiveness, so that in those moments when they feel weak, they might discover their inner strength.

Got a story to share? Send us a message via our Facebook page: Facebook.com/YouthChaplaincy

Would you like a cup of tea?

cup of tea consent

It’s February – which inevitably links to Valentine’s Day. As part of our series this month looking at love and different aspects of love we’re going to try and raise the issue of consent. Consent in sexual relationships is an increasingly important issue, not least because it’s become apparent that so many young people are unclear on what consent is and whether or not they have the right to offer or refuse it.

A report published by the Children’s Commissioner in November 2013 stated quite clearly how much young people were struggling to get to grips with the concept of consent and whether or not they could or should say ‘no’ to sex.

Thames Valley Police have released a short animation, which helpfully illustrates the concept of consent, using the metaphor of a cup of tea. As part of the Youth Chaplaincy series on relationships and communication, we’re hoping to share this video and give away teabags and maybe even decorate mugs as an activity which will engage people in conversation and help them understand that #consentiseverything

You can watch the video here: