One of our Leadership Award Holders, Connie Lumsdon, is just finishing her second and final year with us by revisiting her original Community Action Placement at Centre 63 in Kirkby. We have asked Connie to give us a review of her two week placement, and we are delighted to hear what a fantastic time she had.
“Once again, I’ve had a wonderful time with the staff of Centre 63, a fantastic youth centre in Kirkby which serves the young people of the community incredibly well. I have, however, built on my experiences from last year, and feel as though I have seen a broader range of the many aspects and activities of the centre this year. Although I arrived with 2 weeks prior experience of the centre and its daily routines, I was taken aback by how much the centre has progressed and excelled in under a year, and almost had to start from scratch with my knowledge of the centre as there was so much more to learn.
Arriving on Wednesday evening, I put my suitcase in the office and dived straight into Youth Club with the junior group of 8-11 year olds. Throughout the Youth Club sessions, I had a great time with the children whilst creating emoji masks, colouring in flags of the world (and learning about many unknown countries in the process) and creating comics within the ComicsYouth project, all fuelled by healthy snacks provided free of charge by the centre. A particularly enjoyable Youth Club involved the creation of all sorts of weird and wonderful masks, followed by smoothie making and topped off with a long bike ride around the local area. Kirkby should be proud to have such wonderful, well-mannered, kind children at its schools, and I must say that I was astounded by how welcoming they were when they immediately greeted me and introduced themselves. I have been at every Youth Club since I arrived, and can confidently say that I will never forget some of those brilliant kids, especially for their range of talents; this Youth Club holds in its hands the actors, artists and philosophers of the future.
One of my designated tasks was to manage the social media accounts and website throughout my placement. Through the use of Hootsuite, a social media management application, I have been able to set up regular tweets and Facebook posts in order to further promote all the wonderful activities and clubs that are ongoing at Centre 63. Although social media is a valuable method of spreading news and advertising, the people of Kirkby already value this ever-welcoming place as an integral part of their community, and so the centre is constantly signing up more and more young people who were recommended to come here by friends or family. Many generations of families have been coming to Centre 63 for decades, and so the service provided here is not just a key building block in the local area but also in families themselves. This long-standing relationship with the community is essential to the work that the centre does, as a deep trust in the work of the centre is well established in the community.
I was, of course, warmly welcomed back to the YES Project as my desk base during the day, and have enjoyed achieving a deeper understanding of everything that the Tenancy Support Workers do for the young people of Kirkby and Knowsley. Young people between the ages of 16-25 are taken on to the project’s Tenancy Support Programme, and gain a high quality service of debt advice and financial help. Having said this, the YES Project does so much more than it says on paper. These amazing support workers are with their clients every step of the way, and help in any way they can; this includes applying for grant after grant and helping clients to fill out complicated benefit forms, as many young people who find themselves needing help struggle with illiteracy or learning disabilities. I hugely admire the work that Steph and Ann do for a living, and strongly believe that this youth work is not only having an impact on the people that they help but also affecting the community itself in a major way. During my time at the centre, I had the opportunity to go on some home visits with one of the Tenancy Support Workers. This experience was particularly poignant for me, as the majority of the girls who are on the programme are my age or younger, and are living on their own with their own children, often with little family support. I feel so much respect for these young girls, as I know that I would struggle dreadfully were I in their position.
Many young parents are unable to pursue hobbies or educational programmes, as there is a shortage of childcare providers – particularly affordable ones. Centre 63 makes every effort to ensure that young people can complete courses or partake in activities at the centre, such as free sewing classes or the Employability Programme: a 16 week course in which young people gain qualifications in English and Maths, heightening their attractiveness to potential employers. This is, once again, a clear example of how the centre is constantly looking out for the best interests of the young people of Kirkby.
The warm and friendly nature of Centre 63’s staff towards the young people makes it clear to me how this centre is such a success: everyone feels so welcome here from the very start, including me. I believe whole-heartedly in the work of Centre 63 and have absolutely no doubt that this amazing centre will only go from strength to strength in the future. I have so much gratitude for the constant support and open arms from all the staff here, but particularly from Jeane, the centre’s CEO. Not only has she made me feel as though her home is my home, but she also looks after and cares for everything and everyone in any way that she can. I have so much admiration for her, and indeed for the whole staff team at Centre 63. I wish the centre the best of luck in the future, but I can confidently say that they do not need it.”
The Rank Foundation would like to thank Centre 63, especially Jeane Lowe, for hosting such wonderful Community Action Plac