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Project to tackle loneliness among young people during coronavirus pandemic

23 June 2020

Screenshot of a zoom gathering

A Cardiff University student has set up a project to tackle youth loneliness during the coronavirus pandemic.

Naomi Lea, 21, who is from Denbighshire, said the issue was often not associated with young people - but many were finding lockdown restrictions had taken a toll on their mental health.

She set up Project Hope and with the help and support of young people and Youth Cymru they organise online gatherings for people aged 13-25 three times a week.

“In this crisis so many young people are finding that loneliness is a real issue - they haven’t been able to socialise with friends face to face or do the things they enjoy. I think many have really missed that contact with other people of the same age and they’re struggling,” said the final-year psychology student.

“In response to this, I wanted to set up a project to tackle young people’s loneliness during this period and beyond.

“It started with a small idea and a tweet asking for young people and youth professionals to get involved and has blown up into something that is creating positive change by promoting connection, even in just the few months we have been running. I’m really proud of the community we’ve created.”

The Zoom meet-ups take place on Monday evenings, Wednesday afternoons and Saturday evenings. Sessions so far have included quizzes, game nights, virtual tea breaks, open mic evenings and wellbeing sessions.

“There’s something for everyone,” said Naomi.

“Each session is run by at least two young people and supported by professionals. We’ve had people join in from around Wales and the UK - and even the US. The project is growing every week with young people joining us to connect with each other and reduce feelings of loneliness.”

Joshua, 23, said: “The project has had a huge impact on me - before it came along I wasn't really going out anywhere during lockdown but now I'm taking my dog out for a walk most days.”

Another participant, aged 14, said: “It was so cool - I’ve made lots of new friends"

Team member Kelly said: “It has helped to keep me motivated during this period of uncertainty while also giving me a space where I feel safe and comfortable to learn and develop new skills.

“I attend many of the zoom sessions we hold - and they’re usually the highlight of my entire day. The team behind Project Hope are really great and being involved in this project is an experience I'll hold on to for a very, very long time.”

The project is also running social media accounts on Twitter and Instagram where they have daily themes with content for young people to get involved in:

  • Challenge Mondays - fun challenges to get involved in throughout the day
  • Team Tuesdays - introduce members and share fun facts about the team
  • Wisdom Wednesdays - share fun facts throughout the day
  • Thankful Thursdays - thank those making a difference and encourage people to think about what they are thankful for
  • Arty Fridays - share artwork created by young people
  • Supportive Saturdays - share motivational quotes and talk all things wellbeing
  • Social Sundays - share a challenge on social media

The final part of the project is to put together a Zine of creative work, such as art, short stories and poetry, created by young people during the pandemic.

The project is following safeguarding advice from Youth Cymru, a charity that supports young people and the professionals who work with them across Wales.

Two youth professionals join each video call to take responsibility for safeguarding. Other measures include making the meet ups open only to those who have signed up.