THE first year of a three year project supporting 16 to 25 year olds to volunteer across Cumbria has seen 169 big-hearted young people signed up to help their community.

One dedicated 700 hours of time to help a local charity and 25 others have earned a 50 hours certificate through the CLIP project backed by the Big Lottery Fund.

Just under half of the volunteers have additional support needs including low self confidence, mental health issues and some are on the autistic spectrum.

The project has also helped three young people find jobs, empowered another to set up a group to clear litter and rubbish from their town and given some the confidence to go back to college or tackle a career change.

Johanna Hendrickse, 19, from Sedbergh, volunteered to work at a large charity-run furniture warehouse in Kendal. She gave 700 hours of support which not only benefitted the charity but also her.

“When I started I was very low in confidence and self-esteem,” she said. “I began by doing small jobs to find my feet like making signs and buying essentials for the project.

“As my stamina increased I took on new responsibilities including administrational tasks, mentoring and supporting new volunteers and work placements and working closely with the project manager in overseeing the project.

“Over time I gained experience and job skills and when I applied for jobs the team managers helped me with filling in application forms and preparing for interviews. I have now started at college and have a new job! I also have my ASDAN volunteering certificate.”

Another volunteer, Jack Goddard, 18, from Ulverston, who is now in his final year at school, gave over 90 hours to present a weekly show for hospital radio station, Radio Lonsdale.

“My communication skills and confidence have improved as a result of being a part of the CLIP project”, said Jack. “I have never DJ'ed before in my life but I love to entertain people. I have always been interested in radio but I'm not sure where that interest has come from as my mum doesn't even have the radio on in a car because she is concentrating on driving.

“I am still volunteering at Radio Lonsdale and I really look forward to it every week. It feels great to be a part of something that benefits others.”

Charlotte Robinson, CLIP project manager, said: “One of the project surprises in this first year is the number of young people with additional support needs who have joined us. Due to the current economic situation and funding cuts it is perhaps not a surprise that we’ve had a lot of referrals from organisations who are no longer as able to provide support young people.

CLIPs first awards night, a fish and chip supper and presentation, will be held at the Theatre by the Lake, Keswick on Saturday December 8.