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By Anna H.

Some might say we live in a little bubble here in Queen’s Park.  The green open spaces, the coffee shops, the mum meet ups – it’s a cosy tribal existence.  Many of us have the means to enrich the lives of our children be it through utilising after school and holiday clubs or through the time given to enhancing our kids’ cultural experiences. But we can’t ignore that we also live in a sprawling, densely populated city with overstretched services, poverty and rising crime rates and that affects Queen’s Park as much as any other London area.

I was lucky and privileged enough to visit The Avenues Youth Project, a wonderful centre supporting our local disadvantaged young people.  Situated on Third Avenue, just south of Queen’s Park en route to the Harrow Road, The Avenues works with children aged 8 – 18 by delivering a programme that is safe, creative, fun and challenging.  It aims to contribute towards their development and growth by building their confidence, social skills, resilience, health and aspiration.

The centre is in fact now a charity due to funding cuts and is run by a mixture of staff and volunteers – all of whom are dedicated, and inspiring in their own rights.

We were introduced to Queen’s Parker Carol Archibald, the programmes Manager and volunteer at The Avenues and (along with her peers) were blown away by her commitment to the programme, her own background and her positivity which is why you’re reading this and hearing more about her.

You’ve worked at the Avenues Project for over 14 years – what prompted you to work for the project in the first place and how have you seen it evolve over the years?

I originally came to the Avenues as a member.  Back then it was a state-of-the-art organization and I used my first computer here, developed my first photo in what was a make shift dark room and spent time with my friends.  I had such a great experience at the centre during my childhood that I encouraged all three of my children to become members. 

I was invited back to the Avenues by my old youth worker Carol Bent to work with the members on an annual showcase and even though I was working full time in the City the work and impact that the centre and amazing team of youth professionals were having on the members prompted me to not only stay, but enter back into education where I obtained my level 1-3 in youth work and later, a BA in Youth Work at Middlesex University.  

What type of support does the project provide to young people across the borough of Westminster?  We provide the following; 

  • Youth sessions and clubs that focus health and well being
  • Cooking and healthy eating
  • Sports
  • Fashion
  • Music and the arts 
  • Radio training 
  • Dance
  • Gaming
  • Half term and holiday programmes 
  • Mentoring 
  • Support for young people seeking employment 
  • Sign posting to supporting services for children and young people
  • Leadership programmes
  • Minibus service (Friday evenings)
  • Trips and residentials 
  • Level One Youth Work Qualification  
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Youth worker & professional DJ Nicola Ford with Avenues members radio training

We visited the centre and were really impressed with the large number of diverse activities on offer.  Can you give us an overview of a typical day at the centre?

No two days are ever the same at the Avenues.  Working with children and young people means that you have to be ready to deal with whatever colleagues, parents and Avenues members have to throw at you on any given day.  

However, a typical day might include visiting a local school to present an assembly to promote our service, popping into Sainsburys to shop for the items needed to prepare tea for the after school club, office based work which might include organizing activities, seeking out partnerships with other youth organisations, report writing and monitoring as well as carrying out staff supervision or working on the overall programme.   

One of the unique things about the Avenues Project is the way it caters for older children – up to the age of 18 – which can be one of the most anxious times for young adults.  What type of support does the project offer to these young people?

At a time when young people need to feel as though they are heard and supported, the Avenues offers a range of activities and opportunities to its older members.  We encourage our members to have a voice and participate in the planning and delivery of the activities and workshops on offer as much as possible.

Using the centre to learn new transferable skills or enhance existing ones in catering, music and radio production or sports – young people are able to build a physical portfolio of certificates whilst making new friends and having fun.   Our older members are also able to gain new experiences through travelling (in the past our members have travelled to China on an exchange programme and learnt to ski in the French Alps) being a part of our youth board or attending one of our bespoke workshops.

For some young people, ‘postcode wars’ can have a significant and detrimental effect on their lives – which we are not immune from in and around Queen’s Park.  How does the Avenues Project help young people come together and in effect, cross the lines of conflict?

Being able to open our doors to young people from all over London helps to promote a culture where you are not your postcode.  The avenues delivers various threads of work that serves as preventative for our younger cohort and intervention for some of our older members.  Funded by Young Westminster we are currently running a programme that addresses cross boarder conflict, youth violence and how to cope if you are a victim of crime.  The programme aims to raise awareness of the impact of crime on young victims amongst young people, reduce the number of young people that become victims or repeat victims of crime, support young people to move on from their experiences of crime as well as address the consequences of youth violence, cross border conflict, grooming and gangs.

You’ve worked tirelessly to ensure our vulnerable young people have a safe and nurturing environment to be in.  What’s been the most rewarding part of your work so far? 

Seeing the young people that you have worked with succeed in life is by far the most rewarding part of my job.  Success looks different for each young person and can be simple things such as passing exams, securing accommodation, making new friends and becoming social, walking away from a negative peer group or starting their own business.

We know you spend your working week at the centre but we were surprised and heartened to hear you also volunteer on one of your days off.  What do you do on a volunteering basis and why do you choose to do it?

I volunteer on a Saturday as a youth worker.  My current job as Programme Manager allows for very little hands on delivery, so to do what I love the most (working with the children and young people) I volunteer wherever I’m needed, be it in the kitchen, arts room of dance studio.  Youth work is a passion for me and has enabled me to be a part of the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people in Queen’s Park.  These young people often need an adult that believes and supports their hopes, ambitions and dreams, someone that doesn’t judge them, but can see past things that other adults may focus on and continuously criticise.  A youth worker’s job is to advocate for young people and work toward positive change.   I’ve been very fortunate to be that adult on several occasions and working with the young people at the Avenues has made me a much better parent to my own children.    

We were saddened to hear of the elimination of Youth Centre budgets imposed by Westminster Council and understand the project now relies entirely on fundraising.  What type of initiatives help raise funds and have you got any coming up that our readers should know about?

We are just about to kick off our 40th Anniversary Fundraising Campaign. We have an ambitious target that we’re aiming to meet and have a number of initiatives lined up to help us get there. Any donations to this campaign, big or small is very much appreciated and we are constantly humbled by the generosity and support of our friends and neighbours. This link takes you straight to our donation page, or keep an eye out on our social media for links to sponsor a few of our staff members who, at the end of next month, are cycling from London to Brighton for us.

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Carol with Paddy Barnes, a local fundraising volunteer

You have 10 volunteers at the centre, from role model coaches to cooks and accomplished radio dj’s.  For those reading this and wanting to volunteer their services, how can they find out more information? 

We are always on the look out for volunteers that are full of energy and ready to roll their sleeves up!  We have a volunteer application form on our website . Once this has been completed the form should be sent to Ffion@avenues.org.uk.  Ffion will get in touch with you to let you know what needs to be done next.  Anyone wanting to come along and have a look at the centre should email info@avenues.org.uk.  

Carol, we applaud all you do for our community – but you must like a break!  If you could have one day entirely to yourself which didn’t involve work, what would you do? 

That’s a hard one.  This isn’t very exciting, but it’s something that I love, but rarely get to do.   I love museums and history, but have never been to the Victoria and Albert, so I guess I would go on a private tour of the museum and meet a friend for some window shopping and lunch.  Now if money was no object, I would hop on a plane and do the exact same thing, but in Rome, swapping the Victoria and Albert for the Vatican.  

The Avenues Youth Project
3-7 Third Avenue,
London, W10 4RS.
Tel: 020 8969 9552.
Email: info@avenues.org.uk

Open Hours:

Monday – Friday 3:30 – 6:00 The Zone (after school club, a light tea is provided)
Tuesday 6:00 – 8:30 Girls Hub (girls only sessions)
Friday 6:30 – 9:00 Senior Youth Sessions (13 – 18-year old’s) minibus service available

The Avenues is looking for a part time administrator to join the project, follow link for full details.

www.avenues.org.uk
www.facebook.com/AvenuesYouthProject
www.instagram.com/avesyouth

 


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