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Improving young lives – Wards Solicitors helps local scheme to make a difference

Improving young lives – Wards Solicitors helps local scheme to make a difference

A scheme which is giving children as young as eight and nine a respite from lives steeped in drugs, alcohol and unhappiness is being supported in its pioneering work with a donation by Wards Solicitors.

The Hartcliffe and Withywood Angling Club was set up nine-years-ago to provide young people, often excluded from school and from fractured families, with a positive, outdoor experience away from the deprived inner city areas they normally call home.

A different outlook

Founder Mike Robbins says: "Hartcliffe is an area of high unemployment and deprivation and we are here to support young people at the heart of this community by trying to divert them away from drugs and crime and alcohol, to catch them at a young age and show them something different."

Wards Solicitors, impressed by the role of the club and the work it does to improve its local environment, has made a £2,000 donation which will be used to help fund fishing trips in the area.

Jenny Pierce, head of Wills, probate and mental capacity at Wards Solicitors, said: "We are delighted to support such an important scheme. The work the Angling Club does truly makes a difference to the lives of young people in the Hartcliffe and Withywood area, giving them something positive to experience and enjoy in lives which are not easy."

Peace and tranquillity

Over the years, the Angling Club has helped about 250 people, and Mike has seen dramatic changes in many youngsters.

"Some of these kids have lost hope. We give them order and discipline and positivity and we see real changes occur in them," he says.

"The first thing I tell them is to leave their phones, their MP3 players and their radios behind and when we get to the lakeside or the riverbank, I ask them to listen to what is around them. "What can you hear?" I say to them and they stop and take everything in. Everyone needs some tranquillity and fishing can bring some much needed peace into these young people's lives."

Turning point

Of course, catching a fish for the first time is often the turning point. Mike recalls one 12-year-old boy, hostile and angry, who chucked his fishing rod on the floor and wouldn't speak to anyone when he first arrived at the lake.

"Then I managed to catch his attention and persuaded him to pick up a rod and play a fish that was nibbling some sweetcorn. Not long after that, he landed a 10lb carp - the expression on his face was a delight. He was engaged with the environment, he was smiling, he was talking, he wasn't angry and he wasn't silent anymore. That experience transformed his day."

Mike recalls how he was stopped in the street just recently by a young man who thanked him for what the Angling Club had done for him. He said he now had a job, didn't drink anymore and had almost given up smoking.

Mike, who grew up in Hartcliffe and still lives there himself, adds: "I really am grateful for the help Wards Solicitors has given us in trying to do something positive that touches a nerve with these young people and hopefully makes a difference."

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