Bristol Quakers have a youth-centred approach, aiming to empower young people to lead with their knowledge and experiences, discovering their voices along the way.
All our Local Meetings welcome children and young people – please see their web pages for more information as arrangements differ. Currently 3 meetings offer separate childrens’ groups.
These meetings, usually monthly, run along side our Local Meeting provision and focus on the 11 to 18 age range. Regular youth groups draw from all over the Bristol area, offering opportunities for young people to explore their spirituality and values. Additionally, our youth development worker signposts regional and national events and is able to make them more accessible to those wishing to attend through bursaries and travel help.
The group emphasises building bonds and friendships, recognising their impact on personal growth. Creating a safe space is crucial — a place where young people can freely express themselves on their terms. Empowerment comes from within, and every effort is made to create an atmosphere that respects and celebrates individuality as well as awareness for what it means to operate as a community.
However, most important to all of this is the need for fun! Being a young person in today’s society is filled with so many stresses and difficulties and so above all, the aim in youth sessions is to offer a fun escape where young people can feel safe and supported and want to keep coming back.
Find out more from our Youth Development Worker, Zephyr Blofeld, here:
Since starting in May 2022, I have grown into my role of being the “Youth Development Worker” for the West of England. What originated as a strong and passionate commitment to nurturing and making a meaningful impact in the lives of young people, has gradually evolved to match the nuances of my work. My approach to youth work is holistic, focusing on empowering young people through youth-led and youth-focused sessions. The following items are designed to give an overview of the work that I do, and what to expect in the future. Through this, I have focused on three priority areas of my work across the West of England:
My main priority area of work is to work with Quaker young people between 11-18 across the West. I take a holistic approach to youth work, and hope to meet the needs of the young people as they tell it to me. Sessions need to be fun, inclusive and provide something a little different from their day-to-day. This has included; organising weekend residentials to different meeting houses across the West, to “Philosophy for Communities” sessions that encourage us to ask big questions about important topics, such as prisons and reform, fostering thought-provoking discussions. These events provide young Quakers with the opportunity to explore various Quaker communities and deepen their spiritual experiences. We aim to build a sense of togetherness and community, creating friendships and inclusive spaces for young people to grow and connect with their Quaker identity.
If you are, or know of any, Quaker young people aged 11-18 who might be keen to get involved, please contact me at: email@example.com
Bridging the generation gap within our Quaker community is a pivotal part of my work. Whilst a youth worker, I also actively work with older Quakers to foster and develop more intergenerational opportunities – it is a two-way street! To date, I have helped support initiatives like Bristol Peaceful Schools, where a group of Bristol Quakers delivers peace education in primary schools, to tapping into the abundance of Friend’s wisdom in running the “Philosophy for Communities” sessions, to intergenerational family camps. Events are organised that bring old and young Quakers together as equals, encouraging open dialogue and shared experiences. Currently, I’m actively involved in supporting the Bristol Area Meeting visioning process for the future, ensuring that all voices are heard in the process.
Quakers have a strong commitment to peace and truth-telling, and one way we put this commitment into action is through our work with refugees. The “Welcome Project” provides Syrian and Afghani refugee youth in Bristol with a safe space to build friendships and find community outside of their school and families. This project was set up by my predecessor in my post and has already made a significant impact in supporting some young Syrian refugees in Bristol.
The work with refugee youth goes beyond just support; it’s about building bonds and fostering a sense of belonging. In previous sessions, we have run art workshops that encourage creativity and self-expression. We’ve embark on hikes around Ashton Court, allowing us to connect with nature and our peers. We’ve also hosted massive cook-alongs, where everyone can learn about new cuisines and share meals. And, of course, we enjoy plenty of games! Through these activities, we create a safe and welcoming environment for Syrian and Afghani refugee youth in Bristol, as part of Quaker commitments to peace and inclusivity.
The first group was such a huge success, that it has now ended as a closed youth group, and the previous “Welcome Project” are regularly invited to shared sessions with the Quaker young people. Looking forward, I am now reaching out to schools and refugee organisations in Bristol, aiming to garner support for the initiation of a new “Welcome Project” designed specifically for Syrian and Afghani refugee young people. Why focus on these particular communities? The answer lies in the imbalanced support that different refugee families receive upon their arrival in Bristol, with Syrian and Afghani families often being the least supported. Addressing this disparity is a cause that deeply resonates with our Quaker values, and together, we are committed to rectifying this inequality and offering a warm and inclusive welcome to all who seek refuge in our community.