Achieving for Children

Youth Work Week, 2-8 November 2020

by Ben Skelton MA, Youth Work Lead, based at Ham Youth Centre

This week is national Youth Work Week. Youth work offers young people safe spaces to explore their identity, experience decision-making, take part in new activities, increase their confidence, develop interpersonal skills and think through the consequences of their actions. This leads to better informed choices, changes in activity and improved outcomes for young people.

As we move into the higher tier of lockdown this is a time of great uncertainty for young people. Youth work has been recognised by the government as an essential service benefiting young people’s emotional wellbeing, giving them the support and social interaction greatly needed at present. Our service is currently limited to targeted groups during this second lockdown, but hopefully once over we can return to normal.

Ham Youth Centre, built in the 1960s, has been serving the Ham community for over 50 years offering affordable, developmental activities for 11-19 year olds in their leisure time.

We have been working with young people who spent six months trapped indoors during the last lockdown as they were shielding and others whose mental health significantly deteriorated due to family conflict during this time. Even for those that had a positive experience a second lockdown will be very challenging. We are determined to be there for them in whatever way possible: physically or digitally.

Since reopening in August Ham Youth Centre has been as rigorous as possible in measures to be Covid secure. This includes bubbles of up to 15 young people maximum, frequent cleaning of equipment, washing of hands and the wearing of face masks. Despite these restrictions young people really enjoyed returning to the youth centre.

On a positive note it was great to reopen and get reacquainted with members who didn’t engage with us virtually during the first lockdown and also to meet new young people. We have been running two after school sessions on Tuesdays and Fridays. We have met lots of new Year 7s from Grey Court and have been talking to them about their experiences of transitioning to a new school. Activities have included table tennis, dodgeball, music production, discussions around Black History Month and a competition to make the best lifesize chair out of cardboard!

We also started a new seniors night on Wednesdays for those over 14. This is slowly growing and we are facilitating work around healthy relationships with the group. Youth worker Sammy is also starting a project around creating scrapbooks for young people to record their experiences of lockdown amongst other things. Parkour on Thursdays and our music studio sessions were also back on. We started a new skate session, with skate coaches George and Lex using our hall set up with various ramps and rails. These sessions were attended by a very enthusiastic group of female skaters.

Our bus sessions on Friday nights on Richmond Green continued until mid-October and we engaged with lots of young people socialising in the town centre. We were always there for a chat and to give advice on issues such as substance misuse and sexual health.

Ham Youth Centre has been recognised as a table tennis hub by Table Tennis England and we will soon have lots of related activities including a weekly young women’s session, a course for young leaders to be trained as coaches and a tournament for 11-19 year olds.

An exciting new project planned for the new year (2021) is turning our IT room into a gaming suite where we can do lots of fun gaming, coding and tech activities with young people. We hope to have a facility equipped with state of the art PlayStation 5s, PCs, VR headsets and a 3D printer.

Also in the new year we will be starting our community orchestra led by fantastic volunteers Firas and Micka, where young people can receive tuition in classical instruments supplied by the youth centre and have fun making music with others. All for free!

As mentioned during the current lockdown we are offering a limited service to support particularly vulnerable young people, but when it ends, hopefully in early December, we will return to the offer above.

All activities are open to 11-19 year olds living or educated in Richmond and Kingston and there is no charge. To find out how to book a place on any of these activities, email ben.skelton@achievingforchildren.org.uk or check out our website: www.kr.afcinfo.org.uk

Achieving for Children