The project was launched in November of 2014 by local churches (Revelation Family Church included) in partnership with the University of Chichester and the Chichester Cathedral after extensive research showed a lack in generic after school youth provision in the city.
Over the last three months, we have seen record numbers attending the drop-in after school with over 400 visits per month.
In 2017 we received 3186 visits from 213 individual young people, been open for 525 hours, seen 1477 hours of volunteering and given away 1826 free hot chocolates!
Most of the young people who make use of the centre have no church background and therefore the Bell Tower provides a fantastic opportunity to build relationships and trust into new and unreached areas of the community as we seek to be the hands and feet of Jesus and share the love of the Father. Our volunteers come from all areas of the community, but primarily from local churches, giving space for conversations and opportunities to share faith.
The drop-in sessions are from 3-5:30pm every day after school and are set up to create a relaxed atmosphere where young people can enjoy a number of facilities free of charge including gaming, use of our internet cafe, movie viewing, group activities and games, help with homework and much more. The role of our volunteers is simply to facilitate this space and interact with those attending by joining in these activities as well as being a reliable and consistent listener they can chat to if so desired.
As well as working to sustain the vision of providing a safe and inviting atmosphere in the daily after school sessions, we have also wanted to deepen the impact in the lives of the individuals who regularly attend the Bell Tower. Last year we launched a new initiative called the Young Leaders Programme, an eight month long leadership track which those who attend the Bell Tower can apply to join. The purpose of the programme is to give the young people involved a chance to develop leadership skills, reliability, capability and self esteem.
This year we have eight young leaders who each attend a session once a week and join the team of volunteers, taking on numerous responsibilities for the afternoon. At the end of their session they are scored out of 3 in 5 different areas, including use of clean language, punctuality and attentiveness. These scores accumulate across the term and, at the end of each term, young people with scores over 80% can win prizes and awards for their efforts.
The Bell Tower functions on an annual budget of 22,000 and being an independent charity, it relies completely on donations and grants with no regular government or council funding.
Firstly you can pray. We work with young people from a wide variety of backgrounds, but particularly with some of the more challenged young people existing in difficult circumstances. We need prayer for wisdom, vision and resources in order for the project to maximise its effect in the lives of these individuals.
Secondly you can give. If you feel led to give to the work of the Bell Tower, be it a one off donation, or a regular standing order, feel free to contact Sam as to the best way to do this. However great or small a donation may seem, it all helps to make a difference.
Thirdly, you can volunteer. We have a diverse team of volunteers of all ages and backgrounds. If you would like to attend a taster session to see if it is something for you, do get in touch with Sam for more information. Most volunteers join us for one session either once a week, or once a fortnight.
It is such a privilege to serve our city in this way and give young people a place to belong and feel safe. We at the Bell Tower are so excited to see how the project will continue to develop and grow and bring those in our city together.