The Haverhill Schools Initiative (HSI) was formed in 1995 as an attempt by local churches to help meet the needs of young people. For some years previously, at the invitation of an upper school Head, a number of ministers and volunteers had taken part in school activities in an ad-hoc way. However, it was felt that the links between local churches and schools, particularly those for the older age groups, should be strengthened and would benefit from a trained schools worker, who could devote regular time every week to visiting schools and getting to know their needs.
In September 1995 Steve Watts, our first schools worker and a graduate of Moorlands Bible College, was taken on, initially for just 3 hours per week. A year later, with growing financial support, we were able to increase his contract to 5 hours per week and a year after that (after much prayer and consideration) to 20 hours. Since April 2000, Steve's post has become full-time.
At the beginning HSI was partnered by Newmarket and District Youth for Christ, who provided valuable help from their own experience of running a schools project, and who also employed Steve part-time. During the first two years we established our own administrative base and at the end of 1997 were accepted as a Chartered Ministry of British Youth for Christ (BYFC) in our own right. BYFC provides us with ongoing advice and training opportunities; however, while benefiting from membership of a national organisation, we remain locally funded and organised.
HSI's work covers the two upper schools and four middle schools of Haverhill and the nearby town of Clare, which overlaps with the Haverhill "pyramid". The catchment area includes a number of villages. HSI is run by two groups: an Executive Committee of trustees, which meets monthly with Steve Watts, the director, and has firsthand responsibility for the project; and a Council of Reference comprising local church representatives from five different denominations, who meet quarterly and oversee the work from a wider perspective.
During HSI's four years good relationships have been established with all the schools and the value of the work done in them is widely recognised by the teachers concerned