It was with a heavy heart that the staff and Trustees at Young Melksham closed the doors to The Canberra Centre in March.
The charity responded to the Coronavirus crisis by closing all its centre based youth clubs in mid-March and the popular TeenTalk counselling service migrated to a phone-based system.
Chair of the charity, Jon Hubbard, commented “It was heart breaking when we made the decision to close. We have all worked so hard for so long to build up the facility and activities here at Canberra and to have to close, without a clear idea of when we can reopen, was very difficult.
“However, in the same discussion when we closed the centre, we started exploring options for supporting young people during the crisis.”
Lead Trustee for Youth Work Jack Oatley added, “We had only recently started our new detached youth work service on Wednesday and Friday evenings and I was keen to see how we could continue that service, or something similar, during the difficult times ahead.”
Initially the charity had to cease all services including the detached youth work, but they were delighted to be chosen by Wiltshire Police in mid-April to pilot restarting their detached youth work to reach out to young people who were struggling to cope with lockdown.
Jack explained, “We were really excited to restart this work and immediately Jon got the go ahead we sat down and planned how we could have the maximum impact with our team. We now have youth workers out 4 days a week in our distinctive Young Melksham uniforms clearly identifying the team as youth workers working with young people to educate and inform them on the risks of being out and about in breach of government guidelines”.
Jon added, “What was clear right from the outset was that there were very few young people out there breaching the guidelines. Those we did find we were able to have good conversations with to explain the risks to themselves and their families.
“Our youth work team have been amazing and have walked an average of almost 6 miles every session visiting areas across Melksham and Bowerhill.”
When asked if the team had seen any changes following the gradual relaxation of lockdown rules Jack Oatley responded, “We have certainly been seeing more young people out and about, although we have seen very few cases of them not following social distancing guidelines.”
In late May the charity started new online youth club evenings with sessions every Tuesday and Thursday using Zoom.
The Tuesday night sessions are open to young people from years 5 and 6 and access to the sessions is strictly controlled to ensure that only authorised youth workers and young people are in attendance. Details of how to access the sessions are emailed to parents or are available in the closed Parents Group on Facebook. Parents can ask to join the Facebook Group by visiting https://www.facebook.com/groups/ym.tuesday.parents or contacting Young Melksham direct at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Thursday online club is again tightly controlled to prevent abuse by inappropriate users and young people can get details online at https://www.facebook.com/groups/YoungMelkshamOnlineYouthClub/ or by contacting Young Melksham directly.
Asked when the usual youth clubs would be reopening at The Canberra Centre, chair of the Trustees Jon Hubbard responded “We are desperate to reopen The Canberra Centre and get our popular youth clubs back up and running. However, we will not do this until it is safe to do so and the guidance from government is that we are able to open.
“Unfortunately, this looks like it could be a little while yet, but we are monitoring the situation and re-evaluating the situation every week. The whole team here at Young Melksham can’t wait to welcome everyone back into The Canberra Centre and as soon as we can, we will.”
Jon added, “I really want to say a huge thank you to Wiltshire Community Foundation for supporting us with some additional funding to help pay for the detached youth work, their support together with the funding for this service we had already raised from the Melksham Area Board and UK Youth have meant that despite the serious financial challenges raised by the closure of all of our clubs we have been able to continue and expand this work.”
More details about all of the services being delivered by Young Melksham during the Coronavirus crisis can be found on their website at http://www.youngmelksham.org.uk.