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Inspire Awards 2016: 'Their hearts have been broken for the vulnerable'

How the Tunbridge Wells based charity Life & Soul is helping local children and young people to realise their potential. Sharon Barnard reports ...

How the Tunbridge Wells based charity Life & Soul is helping local children and young people to realise their potential. SHARON BARNARD reports

“God has blessed us with an incredibly gifted team,” says Karen Hickson-Smith, Manager of Life & Soul in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. “Their hearts have been broken for the vulnerable and it is a joy to be working alongside each one of them.”

The charity’s team of eight, plus volunteers, work with local children and young people aged between five and 25 to empower them with the skills and knowledge they need to enable them to realise their potential.

They do this through play therapy, mentoring and education in primary and secondary schools and at a local hostel for homeless young people.

Connect Mentoring, their collaborative project with Tunbridge Wells Youth for Christ and some local churches, is currently busy recruiting additional volunteers for their secondary schools work.

Life & Soul grew out of an existing Christian initiative in the town which began in 1999 with a monthly youth concert called ID, an annual outdoor music event and an umbrella lifeandsoul website for all local youth work.

“In 2006 Life & Soul moved away from the concert-style approach to focus on working directly with children and young people in schools and through the local hostel,” Karen explains. “They recognised a big need for young people to be listened to and supported through life.”

Whether the team is delivering a ‘theatre assembly’ based on biblical teaching, supporting children through therapeutic play, in an RE lesson or relationship education, it knows it is making a difference.

“We see positive changes in behaviour, increased attendance at schools and hear of children who were previously on counselling waiting lists no longer requiring counselling,” says Karen.

“We get wonderful messages of thanks from teachers, parents and even the young people themselves.”

Karen stresses that prayer is the key component of their often challenging work.

“Just yesterday I bumped into a long-term donor, who said: ‘I pray for you each morning, for you leading Life & Soul.’

“Such commitment brought tears to my eyes and made me realise how covered in prayer we are.”

  • Life and Soul was nominated by Emily Cheesman from Tunbridge Wells

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