PICTURE GALLERY: Victory Housing Trust rewards Holt Youth Project young achievers

Two young people now have jobs, another has gone back to school and passed exams, and others have received a huge confidence boost and gained life skills, thanks to a pilot north Norfolk programme.

The year-long Achieving, Confidence, Training (Act) scheme has proved such a success that Victory Housing Trust wants to plough a further �10,000 into another programme in September.

Victory invested in the trial scheme last year, run by the Holt Youth Project, to try and help some of the mainly 16-19 year-old-young people among its tenants who were classified as 'Neets'-–not in education, employment or training.

John Archibald, Victory chief executive, said he had been hugely impressed with the transformation undergone by the young people, some of whom had come from very difficult backgrounds.

Julie Alford, Holt Youth Project manager, and her team had helped build their self-esteem and confidence.

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'If some of these young people hadn't been engaged with this programme they probably would have been involved with drink, crime and drugs,'' said Mr Archibald.

'This programme has been about helping them reach a place where they have the confidence to think about what they want to do with their lives and start looking for work.

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'They may seem small steps, but they're huge for some of these young people,'' he added.

Those involved in the first Act programme, and an 84-mile sponsored Hadrian's Wall bike ride also funded by Victory, were invited to a celebration certificates and pizza evening at the trust's North Walsham headquarters.

They included Callum Wright, 20, who has a year's work on the Stody Estate learning all aspects of forestry.

''When I left school I was scratching around and I didn't know what I wanted to do. 'It's all about making yourself keen. I did a lot of outdoor volunteering - helping at Pensthorpe, clearing at Holt Country Park, gardening and allotments– - and I've never looked back. It's very satisfying,'' said Callum.

Branden Prestney, 18, has been taken on at Byford's caf� and restaurant, in Holt, where assistant manager Luke Abendroth described him as having ''amazing confidence'' and 'brilliant' customer service skills'.

Progress for 15-year-old Liam Chidwick meant going back to Sheringham High, after missing a lot of schooling, and taking and passing English exams. He will be back there next month to sit maths tests.

'It was really scary going back but I feel really proud of myself,' said Liam. ''Before I wouldn't have got a job but now I know I'm going to have a better future.'' Liam was chosen as the top member of the programme and has earned himself and his Act friends a repeat of a Victory-funded trip to London which was an especially popular part of the programme.

Victory has also pledged to invest another �1,000 to run a second Hadrian's Wall bike ride next year.

Mrs Alford said she was surprised and delighted that Victory wanted to run a second programme.

'These young people may be more sensitive, find things more difficult, or have had to pull out of mainstream education for all sorts of reasons,'' she said.

'This means we can help more of them gain confidence and move forward with their lives.'

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