Dagenham bomb shelter and Dig for Victory garden renovated by young volunteers
PUBLISHED: 10:00 27 October 2019
Construction Youth Trust
A team of young people have renovated Valence House Museum's replica air raid shelter to prepare themselves for a career in construction.
They spent three days from October 22 completing the project, which combines a Dig for Victory vegetable garden with protection from falling explosives.
Previously with a slumping dirt covering, it now has dedicated planters to keep the soil in place. Heritage ranger Michèle van Veerssen, who helps run Valence House, Becontree Avenue, told The Post she plans to grow vegetables there in spring 2020.
Construction Youth Trust runs the programme with £150,000 from the mayor of London's Young Londoners Fund. Its goal is to build up skills in young people between 16 and 21, introduce them to employers and help them get their Construction Skills Certification Scheme card - vital to working on a building site.
The charity lets young people pick from prospective community projects - like the Anderson shelter - so they can work on what interests them.
Adebisi Sunmonu is the programme co-ordinator on the scheme, dubbed Constructing Communities.
"The aim is to re-engage them into their community," she said. "Whether that's knowing more about their community or getting them to a place where they can get work."
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The hardest thing is finding the young people, she said, and getting them to spend spare time on a small construction site. Only four of the original nine young people saw out the three full days.
Dagenham's Matthew O'Sullivan, 20, was one of them. He's interested in bricklaying and scaffolding.
"It's been excellent, I've loved every second of it," he said.
"I've been doing a bit of drilling, sawing, it's stuff I want to do as a career.
"I've never done this sort of thing before. I've learned how to work as a team."
Constructing Communities has funding for two projects a year, this was the second in 2019. The programme is set to wrap up in 2021.
Ms Van Veerssen said the museum is now looking for people with gardening skills to donate their time.
People who want to volunteer at Valence House or with the park rangers can find more information at lbbd.gov.uk/volunteering.