How Can We Have A Cohesive Engaged Society? #SponsoredPost

Sometimes, when I think about society as a whole, there is one conversation that sticks out particularly in my mind. I was about 15 and sat talking with my Grandfather, in his garden in the middle of the Summer holidays. My sister and I went to stay with our Grandparents each summer, to enjoy the "break" from normal life and unbeknownst to me at the time, absorbing all the wisdom that our Grandparents were bestowing on us one conversation at a time.

PippaD, her Sister and Granddad

The reason the conversation sticks out was because my Grandfather was talking about where he felt society was going wrong and how it was up to me (and the rest of my generation) to change it. His generation had laid the foundation, but it was up to us to build upon it and make life great for future generations and he believed that a lot of this was down to the small choices to make society "better". Better as individuals, better as citizens and better at being engaged in order to make society better as a whole.

It is probably something to do with that conversation that the children and I try to be the best that we can and why the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme appeals to me and as soon as Tops and Dan Jon are old enough I will be signing them up In actual fact, I've already emailed a few of my Mum friends who have children who are old enough to take part, that's how great I feel this programme is!

Now, I will be honest, until a couple of weeks ago I hadn't heard of the NCS programme but with a little bit of research, I have found that this is a government-backed programme that was established back in 2011 and the aims were to "build a more cohesive, mobile and engaged society". If I didn't know better, I would have said my Grandfather founded it!

The NCS is for young people aged between 16 and 17 who live in England and Northern Ireland (friends from other countries let me know if you have something similar in the comments!) and during the School holidays, the programme (which can be between two and four weeks long) gives the participants an opportunity to take part in various different activities that take them out of their normal comfort zones and stretches them.

The stretching, of course, means that these young people, from different backgrounds, bond together, having shared unique experiences and learning to support each other and instead of seeing divisions seeing unity. Seeing the many similarities and not the few differences that there are between us. Taking part in the NCS programme helps them to become better individuals and in turn better citizens.

And let's be honest, better citizens benefit us all.

The programme starts with Adventure. The participants spend time (basically living!) at an Outdoor Activity Centre and if the experiences Top Ender and Dan Jon have had at Outdoor Activity Centres is anything to go by, the participants will have an absolute ball and the Selfies to prove it. Take a look at their Instagram account if you don't believe me!

Selfie Fun on the High Ropes with an NCS Group

The great thing about spending time at an outdoor activity centre is that each participant gets an opportunity to try something new, to try something that tests them or scares them and with the support of the others in their group they get to conquer their fears and find out new skills or perhaps even discover a hidden talent, or a new hobby.

The second part is the Discovery aspect. The participants are reunited with the group they had during the Adventure section in a uni-style environment where the participants learn valuable life skills, such as First aid but also skills that would be useful in the workplace such as learning how to handle responsibilities, leadership skills and how to connect with different people with different skill sets and experiences to their own. Perfect things to add to UCAS forms or a CV!

Participants in the NCS Programme, learning some First Aid

The part that I like the most is that the third section, where participants connect more with their communities. With over seven million hours of community action having been completed by almost 400,000 young people that have so far taken part in the programme, I think it shows that the youth of today want to make society better. A brilliant way to show this is that for every £1 spent, NCS' 2016 programme delivered between £1.15 and £2.42 of benefits back to society. Tell me that isn't amazing value for money!

This year more than 100,000 teenagers from different backgrounds will come together all with one common purpose on the NCS programme and they will take part in a social action project and make a real difference in their community. If that isn't amazing then I honestly don't know what is. Take a look a the Twitter and Facebook accounts for a glimpse at some of the Social Action projects previous participants have run. Could you imagine being part of that? Could you imagine your child being a part of that?

The last part of the programme is a chance to celebrate all that they have achieved and there are further volunteering opportunities and potential apprenticeships because as the saying goes, once an NCSer, always an NCSer.

Celebration with an NCS Twist!

Of course, I know what you are all thinking. This is going to cost a fortune and you couldn't possibly afford for the young people in your family to take part. The whole experience, including food, accommodation and travel is just £50 and there are bursaries available on a case by case basis and yes those with additional needs are not excluded, there is support provided. Like I said, this is about people of all different backgrounds and experiences coming together.

Now that I've told you the cost of the programme, and it is something which is a manageable cost (I mean I've spent that much on a meal out for the family) you're thinking that you already have summer plans, but guess what, yup, I have an answer for that too. By registering for further information with the programme, no matter what your summer holiday plans already consist of the NCS team will endeavour to get them a spot on the programme at a time that suits you and your family.

There are still places available for Year 11s to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity this summer. To sign up now, go to the NCS website and let your Parent friends know so that they can sign their young people up too.

This is a sponsored post, but seriously I would have written this for no fee because how fab is this programme? My only regret is that I'm 22 years too old to join in.