Thursday 6th June 2019
Thirteen members of Airplay met at the RAF Benevolent Fund’s London head office recently as the inaugural sitting of the Airplay Youth Forum.
The teenagers, all aged from 12-16, gathered to talk about the Airplay project, the Fund’s flagship youth support scheme, and what it means to them. Between them they had 72 years of Airplay membership and had parents who were deployed 100 times.
They hailed from eight different RAF stations, Digby, Cranwell, Brize Norton, Cosford, Northolt, Wittering and Wyton and had all volunteered to take part in the project, and underwent an application process to join the Forum.
A presentation to the Fund’s Chief Executive Air Vice-Marshal David Murray and Director of Welfare and Policy Air Commodore Paul Hughesdon, included ideas of how to develop the Airplay project for the future and the challenges young people faced now like drugs, social media and mental health.
Rhianna Pollard shared her experiences. She said: “What we need to do is educated kids about drugs, not just tell them not to do it. We need to have posters up in the youth centre to reduce the taboo about talking about it.”
The teenagers also shared some of the positive things which have been said about Airplay and its impact. These included, one teenager who said: “I was socially anxious and depressed before I went to Airplay. I felt so welcome, everyone is so nice. I wish I’d done it sooner.”
And another, who added: “Airplay has helped me become more confident and I have made lots of friends who are in a similar situation.”
The RAF Benevolent Fund developed Airplay in partnership with the RAF to give youngsters a safe place to be with enjoyable activities. Working with children’s charity Action For Children, the Fund provides a network of trained youth workers at RAF stations, offering sessions for children aged eight to 18. The Fund also launched Ben Club in 2016 which provides play sessions for younger children, aged five to seven.
Visit the Fund’s website to find out about your local Airplay group.
See also: Military support organisations