Young people in Thamesmead like Cicely Blain and Jerusha Frimpong have five million reasons to smile - because that's how much local charity Trust Thamesmead has been awarded for the development of world class youth leisure facilities in an area that has been severely lacking in them for decades.
The Trust, which is the only organisation working exclusively in Thamesmead, handed over the cheque to the teenagers, who are members of Thamesmead Youth Voice, on Friday (6 March) at an event attended by more than 100 people at Thamesmead Town Football Club.
Cicely and Jerusha told the audience that they and other members of Thamesmead Youth Voice had been fully involved in putting the bid for the award together because they wanted to make a difference so that the services young people receive empower, inspire, challenge and involve the children and young people in Thamesmead.
Trust Chief Executive Mick Hayes said: “This is wonderful news for our young people. By the summer of 2011 we will be able to boast some of the finest youth leisure facilities which will greatly improve the lives and future prospects of young people in Thamesmead."
The Trust, which has been awarded the money as part of the government's myplace programme, will use the funding to redevelop the Southern Arches under Harrow Manor Way as a Youth Leisure Zone enabling it to offer young people a very wide range of leisure provision and opportunities to improve their education, skills and life chances.
Through an innovative mix of new build, extension and refurbishment, the Youth Leisure Zone project will transform the arches and give young people in Thamesmead somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to.
Local youngsters will continue to have a big say in the type of activities and support that is offered.
Trust Thamesmead Trustee Janice Ward Wilson said: “We are extremely thrilled to receive support from myplace to help make our Youth Leisure Zone a reality. Thamesmead is a vibrant and diverse community, but historically we have been held back by a lack of facilities and activities for our young people.”
“myplace funding will both strengthen our existing youth offer and enable us to provide the opportunities our young people have told us they want. The Youth Leisure Zone will offer young people and the wider community cultural and sporting activities alongside the chance to develop skills and seek advice, and we can't wait to begin work with our partners to bring the scheme to life."
Beverley Hughes, Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families, said: “We have put young people at the forefront of the decisions on myplace because they are the best people to design and plan the places their generation, and future generations, will want to enjoy and attend after school and at weekends. I am especially pleased that the successful projects will be incorporating a range of new digital technologies, cultural, multi-media, performing arts, social enterprise and sporting activities. Gone are the days of youth clubs with dusty halls where the only activities on offer were pool or table tennis.
“Our research tell us that 42% of young people do not think they are well respected in their communities so I hope that by offering a unique opportunity to showcase the creative talent of young people at the centre of their communities, this will change the public's perception of young people.”
Sir Steve Redgrave CBE, myplace Champion, said: “All over the country these myplace centres will be hubs for a wide range of exciting, positive and challenging activities - whether it is sport, art, culture or simply a place to be with other like-minded people. They have the potential to be transformational both for the young people that use them and for the way we value the contribution that our young people can make. I can't wait for the day when the first centres open their doors."
Debbie Pippard, Big Lottery Fund Head of Region for London said: “The involvement of young people ensures that these projects are developed by young people, for young people and will be invaluable to the success of the projects. The investment announced today shows young people in Thamesmead that they are valued and will open up a number of new opportunities to them.”
All projects funded through myplace have actively involved young people in their design and development, and will continue to involve them in their future running and will be open at times that they want, including evenings and weekends.
The myplace programme is funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and delivered by the Big Lottery Fund. It is funding projects across England that are working to create safe places for young people to go that are designed to a world class standard and where they can get involved in a wide range of exciting activities and get information and advice from people they trust.
Photos of the Arches, now and in the future...