YMCA Fylde Coast: Boosting children’s wellbeing though outdoor education

Lakeside, managed by YMCA Fylde Coast, was founded almost 70 years ago, to give children and young people the chance to experience new challenges outdoors.

Social Issue

Spending time in nature can improve mental and physical wellbeing, yet many children from urban towns and inner-city areas of the UK have few opportunities to visit the countryside.

Organisational Solution

Lakeside was founded almost 70 years ago, to give children and young people the chance to experience new challenges outdoors. Set across 400 acres on the shores of Lake Windermere, the education centre offers a wide range of activities, from abseiling and kayaking to bushcraft. Its aim is to teach young people valuable skills, challenge them to take risks in a controlled environment and help them to work in a team.

Lakeside is managed by YMCA Fylde Coast, whose CEO, John Cronin, explains, “Outdoor education can develop body, mind and spirit. YMCA Fylde Coast’s mission is to enable people to achieve their full physical, social, cultural and spiritual potential. Lakeside helps us to do that.

“We aim to reduce the barriers for children from a disadvantaged background coming to Lakeside by offering bursaries and discounts.”

Ymca-fylde-coast-north-west

John Cronin, CEO, YMCA Fylde Coast meeting Charity Bank regional manager Simon Thorrington

Loan

Lakeside has offered accommodation for school groups for a number of years, but by 2017 the facilities had become outdated. The building also wasn’t suitable for use outside of the summer months. YMCA Fylde Coast needed to raise almost £7 million for a new, purpose-built campus. While much of the money came from grants and bursaries, half came from a Charity Bank loan.

John says, “This is the second loan we’ve had from Charity Bank. It was cost-effective and we like the fact the bank is ethical and aligns to our ethos. We try to use our spending power to benefit local communities, so it’s good to know that the money we’re paying back will benefit other charities. Securing the loan also gave us leverage to attract donations from private trusts and individuals.”

Social Impact

Lakeside’s new schools centre – the Stoller Campus – will launch this April. It can accommodate up to 250 people, around a third more than the previous building. The campus features efficient central heating and space to dry clothes, which will enable Lakeside to extend its opening season by several months.

John says, “With the new campus, we’ll be able to reach 10,000 young people a year – 3,000 more than we could before. We will continue to focus on helping children and young people to grow in confidence and self-esteem. Visitors are also often inspired to become more active and spend more time outdoors when they return home.”

Helen Clarkson, Head Teacher of Shade Primary School, agrees, “Lakeside gives children that little bit of extra confidence in themselves and a bit more independence. They push themselves and learn exactly what they’re capable of doing.”

One parent commented, “My son has tried and done lots of things he wouldn’t have before and that’s all because going to Lakeside gave him the self-esteem and confidence he needed.”

YMCA Lakeside’s latest impact statistics report 2014:

95% of children who visited Lakeside have increased their aspirations & motivation

84% felt more confident after their Lakeside experience