Over the last 18 months, players of People's Postcode Lottery have raised an incredible £300,000 to support Youth Music.
Youth Music is a national charity which funds hundreds of music-making projects of every style and genre each year. Youth Music projects encourage young people to develop their creative and social skills, make positive contributions to their community and improve their wellbeing. The charity works with children and young people of all ages; from toddlers learning to communicate with their families to 25-year-olds developing skills they need to find employment.
Music-making has benefits for everyone, but Youth Music concentrates on those children and young people who face extremely difficult challenges in their lives. These include projects working with young people in hospitals, helping young bereaved children express their feelings through music, and providing activities for children with disabilities or special educational needs.
Darren is a terrific example of the type of young person players' support has helped. Aged 16, Darren lived alone in a hostel and seldom went out. A Youth Music project run by Skimstone Arts in Newcastle helped transform his life.
Darren explains, "I was in a really bad situation - really low. I was living in hostels and it was miserable, but I had no choice. I never saw my family and only had two friends. People would kick my door, and punch me when I was walking to the toilet or kitchen. I just used to stay in my room all day. No one even said hello."
That all began to change when a friend suggested he go along with him to Skimstone. "I didn't have any interest in playing music then," remembers Darren. "In school we did music lessons, but they didn't let me play an instrument, so I didn't know I'd like it."
Two years after joining the project, the change in Darren has been remarkable. He now has a part-time job and has recently moved from the hostel into a flat. He's working towards his Silver Arts Award, has saved up and bought his own bass guitar, and has plans for his band including going on tour locally and making a name for themselves.
Darren adds, "If it wasn't for the project, I'd still be depressed, on my own, on Jobseekers and going to the job centre. I'd just be really bad - I wouldn't be as happy as I am now. I couldn't believe that my life could change for the better like this... I feel like a different person."