'It makes a difference' - Charity boss on why helping young people matters

Pictured from Just 42 is Caroline Rutherford. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Caroline Rutherford is this week's community hero - Credit: Gregg Brown

Making a difference to young people's lives is at the heart of everything that Caroline Rutherford does. 

From her day job as charity manager for Just 42 to leading up the project to bring a new community and arts space to Woodbridge, Mrs Rutherford is always looking to make a difference in the town. 

Just 42 is currently running four rural youth clubs around Woodbridge for outlying villages and also runs a successful mentoring project that is offered to mostly secondary school pupils. 

It's been a tough time in recent months as Covid has put pay to the charity's projects as it often relies on village halls which were closed for some time. 

"It's been quite tricky because Just 42 don't have our own premises other than our offices," said Mrs Rutherford. 

"When restrictions were lifted and youth services were able to get back we weren't able to open because the village halls weren't open. 

"That's been particularly challenging because we've wanted to do more than we are able to."

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Now that things have improved Just 42 is making its way back to full strength. 

In the mean time, Mrs Rutherford has just taken charge of an important project which will bring community use space to charities, artists and other projects in Woodbridge. 

Jetty Lane will provide a space for many of the town's groups - of all ages - to use after the loss of its former youth centre many years ago.  

"We are trying to replace that community youth hall," she said. 

"The reach will be much wider, for people looking for office or hotdesking space, some artist studios. 

"It's massive I think it will be a great facility for Woodbridge."

Those behind the project are currently looking into fundraising avenues after receiving planning permission for the £3.5 million project. 

"We were just starting to get fundraising together in earnest and applying for grants and then Covid hit," she said. 

"It meant that a lot of the grants and trusts available have been diverted for Covid and there are very few that are open for new building projects."

Nevertheless, the project has kept going with new mobile units going up on the site with the first groups now using them. 

But what has inspired Mrs Rutherford to devote so much of her time to helping young people?

 "I think it's the chance to make a difference," she said.

"Even before I joined Just 42 I was involved in volunteering.

"Our mentoring project is such a good opportunity for people to support young people and make a difference."

The biggest difference that those conversations have, she said, is that it gives young people the time to sit down and chat about what they are thinking. 

"The most important thing is that you have given that young person an hour of undivided attention," she said.

"Even as a parent I think it's unusual that you give your child or teenager a chance to just talk on whatever is on their mind for an hour.

"It's an easy thing to do if you are supported in the right way to do it and it makes such a difference and is really rewarding."

Mrs Rutherford said that it was hard to predict exactly how this help might impact on an individual. 

"We have got no idea what impact that might have on people's lives," she said. 

"We might meet a young person or support a young person with mentoring or a youth project and never really know in the future what difference that has made but I'm confident it does make a difference in many lives."

Just 42 has just welcomed a new apprentice to work with their youth teams who was previously helped by the charity in the past. 

"That's really exciting," said Mrs Rutherford. 

"It's great for us because we want to train up future youth workers and hand over the baton.

"The aim is to help the young people of Suffolk, but they are doing that by equipping organisations that are doing that work."

Those looking to learn more about either Just 42 or Jetty Lane can contact Caroline

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