Reece and Ryan

Reece and Ryan

Matt with Reece, Ryan and some of the South Abingdon Thrive Teams*

South Abingdon’s Reece and Ryan* are longstanding friends with a talent for making people laugh.

Just a few miles from affluent Oxford and its world-famous university, their estate is ranked in the bottom 1% of the country for education.

Life is tough. Many young people there feel cut off and left out, with little to do or hope for.

But over the last year, Reece and Ryan have been on a journey.

It hasn’t taken them away from their community. But it has seen them make a significant transition.

One day, a year ago, they were hanging out together by the local shops, kicking a ball against a wall.

That’s when they met Thrive Teams South Abingdon Team Leader Matt and volunteer Tom, who stopped for a chat and introduced themselves.

Over the course of the next few months – and lots of football – they all got to know each other better.

When a new gaming club started, Reece and Ryan became keen regulars.

Growing in confidence

It wasn’t long before they were coming early to help with the club’s set-up. Their potential was spotted, and soon they were leading activities – and growing in leadership skills and confidence.

One of the best ways to help young people believe in themselves and their power to bring about change is through 1:1 mentoring.

Matt knows this first-hand. Growing up on the Blackbird Leys estate, he was about to drop out of school when he met a mentor who helped him unlock his God-given potential.

Now, thanks to your support, he is doing the same for many others – including Reece and Ryan.

In their mentoring sessions, they have covered areas such as self-esteem, confidence and peer pressure.

And the change has been visible

When they first met, Reece was tense and sometimes aggressive. This led to frustration when people didn’t act the way he wanted.

During a recent bridge-building exercise he snapped at a younger boy with learning difficulties, who then ran out of the room. But after a chat and an encouragement to speak more gently, Reece changed his tone entirely.

He has been working hard to make gaming club an inclusive and welcoming place for the younger children who come.

Reece and Ryan have also taken the opportunity to ask more about faith. When everyday life is full of challenges, there is often little chance to explore spirituality in a safe, non-judgemental space.

But after a youth social, they both started coming along to Abingdon Community Church – and have been asking deep, searching questions.

Then, just a few weeks ago, the friends took life-changing decisions to become Christians on the same day.

Future plans

The journey continues this summer as they hope to go on their first Christian camp and then join Thrive Teams’ young leaders programme in the autumn.

Thrive Teams are working across Oxford to identify, equip and develop young leaders to change their communities with the hope of Jesus.

You play a key part in making this possible – and we want to say a heartfelt thank you.

* Some names have been changed to protect the privacy of our young people.

What others are saying about Thrive

“I have known Thrive and the work it does for and with disadvantaged young people in Barton and Blackbird Leys for many years. Its enthusiastic young team, allied to its sound governance and long term approach, have made a significant difference to the lives of many whose prospects and opportunities would otherwise have been very poor. It is excellent that their model and work have now been extended into Abingdon. It is an organisation that richly deserves philanthropic support to both continue and expand its work.”

Tim Stevenson OBE, Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire