Rejuvenate: Supporting young people through heritage

We are raising funds to expand the Rejuvenate project, which uses creative activities in historic locations to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of young people.

This exciting project promotes the wellbeing of young people facing life challenges, such as exclusion from school and poor mental health or who are vulnerable to the influences of crime and anti-social behaviour.

Using the historic environment to support younger people

We know that the historic environment can do wonders for people's wellbeing. Green spaces with fresh air and space to exercise, or inspiring locations full of history and meaning can transport us to another time, boost our mood and reconnect us with the things that bring us joy.

The Rejuvenate project attempts to bring those benefits to vulnerable young people with a short-term project that gets them out of their school and home environments, build their self-belief and encourages positive, pro-social behaviours and skills as well as the opportunity to reflect on their personal journeys.

A new approach

In 2023, we secured funding for two pilot projects to see if creative activities at heritage sites could support young people by: 

  • reducing detachment and exclusion from school
  • reducing their chances of entering the criminal justice system 
  • increasing their ability to reach their potential by developing their resilience, autonomy and relatedness 
  • enhancing their mental and physical health, life skills, self-esteem and self-expression

The two pilot programmes in Kent and Wiltshire involved young people participating in a range of activities, including a WWII archaeological excavation, constructing a Mesolithic house and collaborative map making in East Kent. 

Results from the pilot exceeded expectations. Within the Schools Pilot in Wiltshire, there was a significant rise in school attendance with participants maintaining a 90% attendance rate and 89% young people showing signs of being more in control of their behaviour. In some cases, the difference captured could double a young person’s chance of reaching their potential at school.

The Youth Justice pilot in Kent delivered life changing experiences for young offenders, with a Youth Justice worker describing it as the best reparations project he had seen in his 40-year career. 

“I was oblivious to what I was capable of, now I know what I can achieve.” Participant 

The Historic England Foundation has funded the pilot phase of the project thanks to generous donations from the Swire Charitable Trust, Edward Vinson 1957 Charitable Trust, the Benefact Trust, Rockthorn and other generous supporters.

Support the project

We now want to expand the Rejuvenate project and build partnerships in new locations, using England’s incredible history to support young people’s physical and mental wellbeing and share what we’ve learned with other organisations. 

You can donate to the next phase of the Regenerate project on our website, or contact us for more information.

Testing our ideas

In March 2022 Wessex Archaeology (one of our key project partners), teamed up with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust and local artist Emma Kerr to give the young people of St Joseph's Catholic School the opportunity to learn outdoor crafts and get creative. 

A similar trial was held in Kent with our other project partner, Isle Heritage, and the Kent Youth Justice Service, with funding from Historic England.

The pupils in Wiltshire engaged in a variety of activities including foraging with our environmental experts, cooking, painting and much more.

Watch this video to see the day in action:

'It is easy to see improvements to their autonomy, competence and relatedness happening during the sessions, but it is difficult to capture. It is these moments that just happen.
Over the three days you could see the young people getting more comfortable and more engaged. They tried new things and started to take responsibility for themselves and by the last session there was sense of being in a place and belonging.
The activity where they wrote down something they wanted to let go of and burnt it in the fire made some of the young people think about things and open up to us [back at school]. It was what they needed.'

Wellbeing and Safeguarding Lead, St Joseph’s Catholic School