30 July 2013
This week a number of London Youth staff – along with members of the Communications Team from the Big Lottery Fund – are taking a morning or afternoon off to volunteer alongside young people and trades mentors to renovate Lansdowne Youth Centre in Stockwell. The project is supported through London Youth’s Volunteer It Yourself (VIY) project, which is Big Lottery Funded and developed and delivered in partnership with Cospa. I was the first of our team down there today and while the rare presence of rain meant I didn’t get to whitewash a wall as I’d hoped, it did give me a chance to meet all of the people involved in the project…
There was Emma who runs Enterprise UnLtd, and three months ago won the contract to run the youth centre through the Cooperative Council tendering process at Lambeth. They are running informal learning throughout the day and evenings with an emphasis on employability and strong local partnerships.
There was Robin, one of about eight participants from the youth club’s specialist project for young people on the autistic spectrum. He showed me how much of the work he had done the day before when it had been sunny. This is the first time that the club have run an integrated programme where young people on the autistic spectrum have mixed with others from the club. The mentors had broken the group into mixed teams – and it was a real credit to the project that I couldn’t tell which participants were in the group with higher needs, such was the extent of the integration and support.
There were five young women from Stockwell Park Estate. They had got involved just yesterday when they were met by an Outreach Worker on the street who asked what they were doing with the summer holidays. “Not much” was the answer, and the next day there they were in their overalls getting stuck in with the rest of the team. The involvement of a group of lads who have begun regularly attending the club also helped – and it was amusing to see one of them allowing one of the girls to give him a makeover using a trade standard paintbrush!
There was also Arnold, one of three young men who were referred to the project through the strong partnership we have built with Stockwell Job Centre. They are all now volunteering almost full-time, using their practical skills and inspiring younger people into trade careers. And there was Gregg and Ciara from RM Training, there to assess the young people’s work to make sure that they achieve an Entry Level 3 accreditation for their efforts.
Despite the rain, the group had managed to get quite a bit of work done this morning – and so as a treat Emma had organised a pool tournament for each of the teams. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun – like a family playing games at Christmas – and it felt like this was a safe place, crucially not in the direct territory of any of the local gangs.
I’m always excited by my job – but never more so than when I see first-hand the impact of inclusive, structured and fun programmes in well-run youth centres embedded within their community. I only hope the rest of the London Youth and Big Lottery Fund team have some sunshine for the rest of the week.