Teens set up a catalogue for struggling families to swap toys in lockdown

After the two 17-year-olds noticed that coronavirus lockdown had led hundreds of families in their community to struggle, they wanted to do something to help.

With schools and play areas being forced to close, there was an overwhelming need for families to provide affordable entertainment and fun for their children.

So Faisal Mumtaz and Mohammed Oukasha, of Fenham, came up with the touching idea to launch a Community Catalogue providing families in the West End of Newcastle a chance to swap toys, games and equipment for free.

The teens were part of youth charity The Key’s skills development programme, at Northbourne Street Youth Initiative, where they were challenged to think, plan, do and review their very own project ideas.

The Key framework inspires young people to believe in themselves and empowers them to achieve their full potential.

After speaking with their community, budgeting, planning and finding advice about how to sanitise the hired items to make them Covid-safe, the duo’s Community Catalogue has since taken off.

And now the youngsters provide families with the opportunity to make stress free memories by removing the financial barrier that many may face.

Faisal said: “Many people couldn’t do what they wanted to do because of the restrictions and so needed the entertainment at home but often a lot of the activities and products that you can buy are expensive and many don’t have the money to spend.

“We wanted to remove the financial burden for a lot of the families and provide entertainment for the children and youth people in the community.

“It feels good that we are able to contribute during lockdown when others couldn’t always help each other out because of the restrictions.”

Lockdown brought many challenges for the teens themselves, as they had to adapt to self-guided schooling at home.

But they were delighted to use their spare time to do something different and planned their project through weekly Zoom meetings, where they set themselves tasks to do over the next week.

Mohammed said: “Doing the catalogue gave us something to do during a stressful time in lockdown. It gave us something positive to focus on that is now helping others in need.

“Families now don’t need to worry about affording to give their family new, fun activities because the catalogue is free and those staying at home don’t need to go out because we deliver the items to them.

“It feels good to give back to families and the community. It is nice knowing that families will have things to do and keep them entertained during these unusual times and that is because of our own Key Project.”

Northbourne Youth Initiative manager, Rachel Martin, is proud of what Faisal and Mohammed have achieved and how their hard work has paid off.

She said: “We are giving items from the catalogue out to families every week and have a lot of interest.

“The group worked really hard and responded rapidly to the need of the community in the pandemic.

“They made sure everything was done on time so that the start of the summer was good for so many children and young people in the community despite the pandemic.

“So many families can’t believe that this project has been designed and delivered by young people for other young people.”

The Community Catalogue is available to view online on Northbourne Youth Initiative Facebook page and hired items will be delivered free of charge.