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Interview with a Youth Strategy Officer for Avon and Somerset Constabulary

This month we talk to Youth Strategy Police Officer, Kris Withers about why Avon and Somerset Constabulary work with Snow-Camp and the difference our programmes make to many young lives in the region. Thank you Kris!

PC KRIS WITHERS

Can you tell us a little about the young people you work with?

As Youth Strategy Police Officer for Avon and Somerset Constabulary I work with several young people from a variety of backgrounds. Some of the young people I work with come from disadvantaged backgrounds and some maybe starting to get involved in ASB (Anti-Social Behaviour) or criminality. I try to divert young people from continuing down this path through diversionary projects such as Snow-Camp.

How did you first find out about Snow-Camp?

I was listening to Radio Bristol and I heard Andy Kimber (Snow-Camp Bristol and Cardiff Programme Manager) talking to the host about Snow-Camp and because of my role as Youth Strategy Police Officer I was immediately taken in by what Snow-Camp offer. I was very keen to learn more as I felt we could form a partnership with Snow-Camp to give young people a fantastic opportunity to get involved in a positive and new experience.  

Ironically, at the same time I heard the radio article I was contacted by PCSO Hayley Bickford, a police officer who runs the Bright Outlook Programme in Bristol. She had set up a meeting with Andy to learn more about Snow-Camp. Following that meeting Hayley and I sought to find a group of young people we could refer onto First Tracks, the 2-day skiing and snowboarding programme. With help from police officer Sharon Tarling the Schools Neighbourhood Beat Manager for Merchants Academy in South Bristol and PCSO Leanne Sullivan the then Schools Neighbourhood PCSO for Brunel Academy we were able to identify some young people in need of this opportunity. 

Avon Police Group

Why did you think Snow-Camp’s programmes were a good fit for your young people?

Having seen what Snow-Camp do first hand and witnessing the obstacles and fears snowsports can present, it is clear how the experiences that the young people have on the ski slopes can be mirrored to their everyday lives. Initially the thought of being able to ski or snowboard from the top of the dry ski slope does not seem possible but through perseverance and belief they can make it to the top and beat their fears. That message tells that young person that whatever the obstacle they face in life they can overcome it and they can succeed. 

What impact have Snow-Camp’s programmes had on your young people?

Snow-Camp have presented the young people with hurdles and they have had to jump these hurdles to progress on the programmes. Being able to tackle their fears has given the young people a new level of confidence and positivity. Also, Snow-Camp has given the young people the opportunity to meet new people, they have had to work as a team with people they didn’t know before they came onto the programmes. This has helped with their communication skills and encouraged team working.  

What I really like about Snow-Camp is that it gives opportunities for all young people to try what historically is seen as an elitist sport. Furthermore, as the young people progress through the different programmes they can gain professionally recognised qualifications, which can only be a good thing.  

What I have seen within all the young people is how their confidence has grown as they have progressed from the 2-day programme to Graduate, the 6-week programme. I have seen how well they interact and communicate with each other and gaining skills which they can take forward in their lives. My hope is that they can all use these new-found skills to find their way to positive and successful lives.

What’s your Snow-Camp highlight so far?

My highlight with Snow-Camp so far happened back in August 2018 on the First Tracks Programme. A young man trying snowboarding for the first time fell quite badly, but rather than giving up and giving into fear he came back on the second day. In fact, the young man made the most progress of anyone over the 2-days. I was inspired by his determination and bravery to get up and not only try again but ultimately overcome and succeed.  

The other highlight was on the last Saturday of the Graduate Programme in November 2018. I saw that one of the young woman skiers was quite tentative and timid having never skied before and could only ski from about a quarter of the way up the dry ski slope. Not only is she now skiing from the very top of the dry ski slope she is now going over jumps and the confidence she now has in herself is incredible to witness. It highlighted what Snow-Camp offers young people, the chance to ski, yes, but more than that it teaches young people that they can succeed and whatever the barriers they face in life they can overcome them, what a fantastic message.