Story

Messages of Hope from Blackwood Children

Recently, pupils from Libanus Primary School in Blackwood visited the Connect Gwent victims' hub to find out more about how one of the referral agencies based there is supporting children and young people who are victims of crime. The pupils also got creative and helped staff to decorate the office Christmas tree and provided their own messages of hope for children less fortunate than themselves.
 
Located next to Blackwood Police Station, Connect Gwent is the first multi-agency service of its kind in Wales and aims to provide positive and lasting support to all victims of crime. The service was launched by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) for Gwent, Ian Johnston, in May 2015.
  
One of the agencies based at the hub is Embrace - a national charity which supports child victims of crime up to the age of 18. With the aim of building relationships with the community and highlighting the work that they do, Natalie Williams, the Young Victims Services Officer for Embrace, worked with pupils to make the Christmas decorations which they then hung up on the tree with all the staff. Each pupil also inserted their own messages of hope inside a bauble.
  
Since Connect Gwent opened eight months ago, the Embrace charity has provided essential support to over 100 child victims of crime. This includes children who have been victims of sexual assault, harassment, bullying, theft and domestic violence. This year, all the people working at Connect Gwent decided to donate Christmas presents to some of the children supported by the hub.
  
Natalie Williams from Embrace, said: "The children wanted to give messages of hope to other children who might be alone or sad this Christmas.
  
By offering practical and emotional support, Embrace is able to help take away the hurt, restore some normality to young lives and reassure them that other people really do care. Whether they need cheering up, someone who will listen to them or professional help - we are here for them.
  
When we speak to the children that we have supported, we often find there have been things in the past that have been very upsetting for them. We've worked with really young children who have started self-harming as a result of what happened to them. We recently provided support for a victim of bullying that had to move schools because it got so bad. We were able to buy them a new school uniform so they could start their new school. Little things like that can make a huge difference and put a smile back on their faces."
  
Natalie added: "Connect Gwent has given Embrace an opportunity to link in with families on a more personal and local level. To be able to sit in a hub and be surrounded by other agencies that provide specialist support is amazing."

For further information about Connect Gwent and the services available, please visit www.connectgwent.org.uk