Leading the way

Tuesday, 1st August 2023By Orsi Fulop

When John Wheatley emailed me from the South Weston Activity Network in Weston-super-Mare about him and his small dedicated team visiting The Pearl Exchange to learn about how we do what we do so that they can try to replicate it in their own community and offer such critical support to young adults, I thought WOW! When did WE become the model to follow?!

And indeed, as we sat down with a coffee on a semi-rainy day in the middle of the Cornish summer, the questions started to flood in. Hungry for ideas, lessons learnt, challenges faced and conquered and an inspiration to follow. And only once, I begin to share my experience of the journey and the differences we have made to date to young adult lives in our community I began to realise for the first time just how far we have come in such a short amount of time. I’ve now found myself sitting up with an enhanced sense of pride and leaning forward with excitement and recognition of being part of this incredibly important space, wishing to share this feeling with the rest of Bude as this treasure belongs to all of us and we should all feel proud to have it on our doorsteps.

A couple of hours have flown by before we said our good byes and the Weston team made their way to the Sea Pool for a dip before getting on the road back home. The next day I’ve asked John if he would share his experience of The Pearl Exchange and here is what he had to say:

“We had a great day out in Bude. We enjoyed swimming in the sea pool and eating pasties on the beach — but we found the Pearl Exchange to be a jewel in the crown. It was so inspiring to see this pioneering work with young adults. In Weston-super-Mare, we have lots of opportunities for children and young people, but we’ve noticed that our young adults haven’t got the spaces and support that will help them thrive. The Pearl Exchange is an example of what is possible to accompany young people in their transition to adulthood. In many ways, what the Pearl Exchange has achieved was beyond our imagination. Seeing the beautiful space that they have created at the Pitch & Putt, alongside the welcoming horse-box coffee stand run by a Pearl Exchanger, and a jam-packed programme of FREE activities that connect with young adults interests — THIS is a dream! It was inspiring to hear stories of lives changed through bringing people together, offering a sense of purpose or a listening ear, and simply creating places for people on the edges to belong. We are going back to Weston-s-Mare full of hope, ideas and possibility.”